my boss says grad school will prove I’m serious, being micromanaged after a great review, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss says I should go to grad school to prove I’m serious about my field

I’ve been with an association for close to five years now, and have consistently evolved in my role. I started as a coordinator for a particular department, and have moved onward to assistant project managing a few key initiatives. This aspect of my job is challenging and exciting and what I would like to be doing full-time. However, I’m also still managing a lot of administrative tasks for other groups, like scheduling calls and ordering lunches, which I would like to move away from.

In every performance review, I’m consistently given feedback that I’m doing a great job, that they recognize my intelligence and drive and value my contributions. However, I have repeatedly asked the organization to invest in me by allowing me to attend conferences or trainings, and they have ignored these requests. I recently received feedback from my supervisor that the only way I will advance in the organization is to get a master’s degree in the field that I’m working on. Not specifically because of the knowledge I will gain, but because it will prove that I’m serious about the field. Should I take this advice seriously? I’ve always thought about grad school, and wanted to continue my learning, but I could only do an online program, so that I can still work full-time. I’m also not sure how long I want to stay at this organization, and I know that it can be more challenging to find a job with a master’s. If they are telling me I’m not going to advance, I should leave, right?

Going to grad school to “prove you’re serious about the field” is terrible advice! You go to grad school if you need the degree to achieve what you want in your field. Or perhaps if you’re have a love of learning, don’t care if it helps you professionally, and are either independently wealthy or fully funded. You don’t go to prove anything. And really, you could get the master’s and find out you still can’t advance in your organization because they have you pigeon-holed as someone who does admin work.

You’ve been at this organization for five years, which isn’t a bad time to start thinking about moving on anyway (and especially if you’re not advancing). Why not look around? If you realize you need a master’s for most of the jobs you’re interested in, then you can make a decision based on that. But don’t do it to prove something to an organization that you’ve already proven yourself to through five years of excellent work.

2. I’m being micromanaged by a new manager after a great review

I recently had a six-month performance review in which my work was rated very well. All metrics were met and the higher-ups praised the work I’ve been doing.

During the review, I was made aware of the fact that I have a manager other than the one I’d originally been working with. I was never told this person was my manager or supervisor in any capacity, and until after the review, he’d never come off as someone in a leadership role.

It’s been weeks since then, and my new manager is constantly checking up on me. He is piling more and more on my plate than ever before. He is giving me a dozen tasks and checking up to see if I’ve done them all within an impossibly short period of time. He is micromanaging and making me go over every decision I make with him, whereas before I was able to work relatively independently.

I’m feeling deflated at this point. Previously, this job was the perfect mix of collaboration and independence. Now, I constantly (and I mean constantly — dozens of check ins during an eight-hour day, every single day) have someone breathing down my neck. I don’t understand why the response to my stellar performance review was to put this kind of supervision in place. It wasn’t discussed at all.

It wasn’t the stellar content of the review that triggered it — it was that something happened then that made this person aware he was your manager (which somehow no one knew before that, which is weird). And so now he’s managing you, and he’s terrible at it.

I’d go back to the person you thought was your manager previously, the one who wrote your review, and talk to them about what’s happening. Explain what’s changed and how miserable you are and ask if there’s a way to be moved back under their purview. (They clearly thought they managed you earlier, since they wrote your review!) Point to the outstanding feedback you had, and use the words “demoralized” and “interfering with my productivity.”

There’s no guarantee they can or will step in, but in a functional organization that would light a fire for someone to address this.

3. I don’t like the way my employer is screening us for COVID symptoms

I work at a relatively large organization in a large U.S. city. We are starting to have people coming back on-site. As part of this, we are asked to do a virtual health screening each morning that we’ll be on-site. This screening asks if we are experiencing a list of COVID-19 related symptoms (coughing, fever, etc.) or if we or anyone we have been in contact with has received a positive COVID test. You select either yes or no and if you select yes, you cannot come in (understandably).

Originally I assumed this information was being received by my manager who was cross-checking it against those of us who were coming into work that day. While I don’t love my manager being given info about my health normally, I understand that right now he needs it in order to do his job of assigning work and ensuring coverage. However, I recently found out that it isn’t my manager receiving this information — it is a few of my peers in another department (not HR, a similar department to mine, think marketing or graphic design), who then let my manager know who is cleared or not.

I … don’t like this and I can’t fully articulate why. I understand we’re in a pandemic and that some things are necessary, but these colleagues don’t need access to my medical info to do their jobs, and they are not trained on handling personal medical info. I realize that this is a pretty limited amount of info, but I think it should go to as few people as possible and only those who really need it. I’m not likely to make an issue over it, and so far I haven’t had any symptoms that would require me to answer yes, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on this and if I’m just being overly sensitive. I used to work in healthcare so I have pretty strong feelings about sharing medical information and that may be affecting my perspective here.

Not to further alarm you, but your boss might not be trained on handling personal medical info either. If you company is smart, they did train those coworkers and your boss as well — but the rules for healthcare workers are different than the rules for most employers. (One major difference people often don’t realize is that HIPAA doesn’t apply to most employers.)

I imagine your employer set it up this way because your manager’s time needs to be spent elsewhere, and/or because it’s easier for them to train one set of workers to collect this info rather than to have every manager collecting it for their own teams, and/or because they want a firewall between managers and employees on this — so that your manager is just receiving the final verdict (cleared/not cleared) and not hearing personal health details from people.

If the people receiving the health info are generally responsible, trustworthy, and discreet, I wouldn’t worry about this. If they’re not, that’s the angle I’d address it from — not that they’re not your boss.

4. How do I express concern without prying?

I’m a manager of an employee who’s had to take some time off for doctor’s appointments, and it seems like there have been more as a result of others. This is not someone who would take advantage of time off, so that’s not my concern, and is also someone I have a relatively close personal friendship with. What’s the best way to express concern or support for their well-being without seeming too intrusive or sounding like I want to know more?

“I don’t want to pry, but I hope everything is okay, and please let me know if there’s anything you need from me!”

They can then either offer more if they want to, or can ignore it and move on.

That said, there are times when I wouldn’t recommend saying even this. If you’re a manager who does tend to pry or who has expressed skepticism about someone’s sick days in the past, this can come across as fishing for info or signaling you’re watching their time off. But in a healthy environment, it will be fine.

5. My company wants to know if I’m willing to travel this year

I am an account executive working four years in the same company. Last year, due to turnover I was given an opportunity to spend a month abroad (Canada) visiting various clients. I don’t mind travel and welcomed the opportunity, wrongly thinking it would help progress within the department.

Fast forward a year and due to Covid there is no clarity on whether and how this same travel duty will play out. Normally these visits occur annually, around summer. Due to a specialized skill set, it would be difficult to have another employee replace me for this and virtually no one else is trained on the required tasks. With a work-from-home structure set up four months ago, I imagined travel was off the table until 2021. Yet twice management has asked whether I am open to traveling this year. I felt I couldn’t flat out decline but was direct in stating my strong preference to delay travel until conditions are safer.

Having been approached again about the travel conditions I’d feel comfortable with, I responded with questions such as will the company cover any potential treatment needed due to corporate travel (especially if treatment is required abroad) and would they cover any costs if I’m required to quarantine abroad and am prohibited from returning home? Legally I doubt there is precedent on this and I’m floored this discussion is even taking place and want to ensure I’m not being overly pessimistic or negative.

Well, wait. They didn’t come to you and say “you must travel.” They asked if you were open to traveling this year, and you didn’t explicitly say no. You said you preferred to delay it until conditions are safer, and so now they’re asking what that means to you. Why not go back and say, “I’ve thought about it and, given the current data, I’m not comfortable traveling this year at all”?

I get that you’re worried that a flat no wasn’t an option, but you should take them at their word until they show you that you can’t. They asked if you’d be up for doing it and you’re not — so just tell them you’re not.

If you feel weird about backtracking now, you can say that the recent spikes have changed your comfort level, or that simply thinking through what benchmarks you’d want to see first has made you realize it won’t be this year.

{ 328 comments… read them below }

  1. Jess*

    No. 5, if you’re in the US there’s a good chance you won’t be allowed to go to Canada at all this year anyways, if that’s the travel they’re talking about.

    1. Sara M*

      I was going to say this. I don’t think most Americans realize that most borders are locked.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          From what I’ve read, it’s not a 100% closed border but it’s “urgent necessity only,” such as kids going back and forth between parents who share custody across the border. Business travel isn’t going to fall under the heading.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            If you’re a Canadian citizen or dual citizen with Canadian citizenship, you’re in. I think you have to quarantine for a while and get tested, which is fair, since it doesn’t make a lot of sense to take a day trip across an international border during a pandemic.

            If you have a minor child and the co-parent is a Canadian citizen living in Canada, you have to send the kid by themselves or hand them off at the border (friend was not allowed to drive the kid across the border, other parent had to meet them there).

            If you’re an American living in Canada, don’t come back to the US until the pandemic is over or your visa is up because you won’t get back across. :(

            Basically, no Americans allowed (don’t blame them). Unless you’re a head of state, and probably if you’re rich since money makes rules go away.

              1. Chinook*

                But they are going to be quarantined upon arrival and will have to stay here until the season is done. As well, their testing will not take away from public capacity as part of the agreement for letting them do this.

          2. DollarStoreParty*

            Right. I’m in Detroit and am really missing my trips across the river. Apparently “I really want to eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory” or “I want Poutine” is not deemed a necessity.

        2. Ewesername*

          You can come by air for work related matters, but not by land. However, we Canadians would prefer you stay home for now. Thanks for understanding!

            1. Canadian in Health Care*

              Agreed. Whether or not the borders permit it, Canadians are not eager to welcome Americans back this year. If this can be a zoom meeting, let it be a zoom meeting.

          1. Savannnah*

            Not entirely true. My fathers by land shipping company is busier than ever transporting between the US and Canada. The loopholes are larger around essential business than many would think.

            1. Canuck*

              Yes, there is a lot of land-based business as there are many many trucks with food. But if they aren’t essential then it’s much harder, thankfully for those of us on this side.

              I think LW 5 would be safer up here as the rates are low, yet they would need to quarantine even if rules change and they could come in.

              The EU now refuses the US entry yet lets in Canadians. We’re in agreement and would prefer to have you stay away!

              1. Lovely Day for a Pandemic*

                Thanks for rubbing it in about how awful it is to be an American now.

                1. LunaLena*

                  Eh, taking due safety precautions isn’t really “rubbing it in. It’s not their fault Americans are awful at following basic instructions like “wear a mask” or “wash your hands.” If anything, I’m mad at my fellow Americans for prolonging the pandemic and bringing this not only on themselves, but all of us.

                2. Surprised*

                  It is a fact. Just like it’s a fact that this person is considering what is clearly discretionary travel in the middle of a pandemic, when Canada is, thankfully, coping well at the moment.

                  Why are we coping well? Possibly being strict about cross border movement is a factor.

                  Please stay home. Please.

                3. alienor*

                  “It’s not their fault Americans are awful at following basic instructions”

                  That’s true, but it also feels very harsh towards the many, many of us who have been faithfully following those instructions for months and doing our best to stay covid-free. I already feel bad enough every time I think about potentially never being able to leave the country again; it doesn’t help to know that the rest of the world literally views me as contaminated. :(

                4. Kiwi with laser beams*

                  “That’s true, but it also feels very harsh towards the many, many of us who have been faithfully following those instructions for months and doing our best to stay covid-free.”

                  Think of it this way: when you say “WEAR A MASK!!!” you’re not yelling at people who already do so, right? Same with this. When people in low-covid countries say “FOLLOW BORDER RESTRICTIONS!!!” we’re not slamming every American, just people like LW’s boss who is showing a worrying amount of determination to send people to Canada despite the current situation.

          2. Asenath*

            I’d look really, really closely into the requirements in the province(s) to which you are going, as well as into the federal requirements. While there are exemptions for essential travel (eg truckers bringing in food and essential supplies), and provinces are doing very well and beginning to open up, there are still restrictions. It’s not just whether you can get into the area you are working in. A business might be unable to justify a quick trip turning into a two-week quarantine on arrival and two more on return.

            1. Chinook*

              Yes – sone provinces and territories are closed to even other Canadians. My MIL is waitihg for Newfoundland to open up so she can visit her dying mother. Her family in Nova Scotia can go as they are part of the regional bubble, but Alberta isn’t.

              1. Elenna*

                Yep – my mom was really hoping to take a driving trip to Newfoundland in a couple weeks but it seems that’s not going to happen. Not that I blame them, since AFAIK Newfoundland and the other Maritime provinces are almost entirely COVID-free while Ontario (where we live) is one of the two biggest hotspots. (Although when I say hotspots, we’ve had declining new cases for a while, and we’re down to <200 new cases a day.)

                1. Travel OP*

                  All the travel is concentrated around Ontario/Quebec – which only increases my concern.

          3. Travel OP*

            I really don’t want to bring additional risk to a place that has the virus mostly under control!

          4. Surprised*

            Canadian here, asking nicely, “Would you please stay home?”. The situations we are hearing about in the US and elsewhere are terrifying.

            Also, would your medical insurance cover you if you were ill in Canada? What if you fell ill and died here? How would your family cope?

            Please stay home

            1. Travel OP*

              I will gladly stay home! The questions you bring up about insurance, etc are very relevant.
              I’d like to have a better idea of how corporate travel in general will work before traveling again – even next year.

              Last year, when I asked about insurance coverage while abroad I was told the Canadian system is free anyway… not very reassuring at all!

              1. Surprised*

                Medical care is free- to residents of Canada. Not to non-residents. It would be pay as you go for you.

                1. Travel OP*

                  That is what I imagined – regardless I refuse to travel pandemic or no pandemic without proper coverage.

              2. Canuck*

                Agreed, their confusion about medical insurance should be worrisome for you! It is taxpayer-funded and single-payer, not free for the world.

      1. KRM*

        Yep, I was supposed to be in Canada on vacation right now! But alas. The border is still closed to any ‘non-essential’ travel, and when it eventually opens I’d bet on a long period of “14 day quarantine when you enter”. I doubt any business travel is going to be important enough to work around that.

      2. Stephanie*

        It’s the US as well. I live near the border in Detroit and both nearby points of entry say “Essential travel only.”

      3. Morticia*

        So, if you could get in, you would have to spend 2 weeks in quarantine before conducting your business, and then, once you got home, you would probably have to spend another 2 weeks quarantining there. Would it even be worth it?

      4. katelyn*

        You need to quarantine for 14 days, and if you don’t have a strong plan for that the government can force you to stay in a hotel where they can monitor/enforce the quarantine. Also, that’s at the international border. If the plan was for you to travel between provinces, there’s a number of provinces that have restrictions between them with quarantine rules for when you enter the province, not the country (so you could need to re-quarantine if travel takes you to a different province than you landed in). Definitely check on all the restrictions before you tell your bosses you’re ok with it.

        1. Travel OP*

          Thank you that’s very helpful to know! I was unaware Provinces had limitations and could require additional quarantine,

      5. Lovely Day for a Pandemic*

        No country compares to the US because we have fifty states and no national guidance or processes. Yes, it’s unfortunately the wild west here, but it hurts us more than it could ever hurt Canadians.

      6. Surprised*

        It is fairly common to hear Canada referred to as “abroad” by US residents. I too had a “what?” reaction initially, but it seems to mean simply “anywhere that isn’t the USA” to many Americans.

      1. virago*

        “People traveling for business can still come across”

        Other commenters have referred to Canada’s being closed to non-essential workers. I … would not assume that any workers, for any business can still cross the border. And that’s not even taking into consideration the quarantine requirements.

        1. Chinook*

          And if you think about lieing to get through a loophole, don’t. Nothing made us angrier than the Americans who bragged about doing just that while in Banff. They got fined for lying at the border about going straight to Alaska (FYI-Banff is not on the way).

          1. Mama Bear*

            Agreed. If the business isn’t so essential as to qualify on its own merit, then the OP’s company needs to revert to video calls or other means of handling these meetings. OP also can’t travel to Hawaii without a quarantine and they are very serious about it.

            1. Travel OP*

              In general travel anywhere – for work or pleasure – is the last thing I’d consider at the moment. Employer is weary of declining travel and losing revenue but it’s clear from all replies that this is impossible and unreasonable to expect.

          2. Surprised*

            Yes, I was livid when I heard about that, I had not heard the resolution and am pleased it was treated as serious. Thank you for that info!

    2. MyDogIsCalledBradleyPooper*

      Well the Canadian boarders are closed for most travel. They are not completely closed. Travel for essential business is allowed. Where I work we are still seeing trucks cross the border to pickup and deliver. Drivers have to some straight to our site and the straight back to the border.

      Given that things still seem to be out of control in parts of the USA. I think you can tell your employer that you would like to defer the travel decisions for a couple of months. I would also offer suggestions on how can meet with your client virtually until you are able to travel to their sites. I would offer to increase your communication with them since it’s not face to face.

      1. Taniwha Girl*

        Agree with this.
        First of all, even if you were local in Canada, odds are you would be meeting with the clients virtually. There aren’t too many places in the world that are like “yes, definitely travel in person to multiple sites for business! This is A-OK, come on down!” Most places even with fewer cases (*right now) are encouraging virtual meetings. Think about catching something at the airport/at Client 1 and spreading it to the rest while you remain asymptomatic D:

        Second of all, many many countries are still not allowing business travelers, including those from the US if you are from there. I know many who are stuck abroad unable to return home, or are stuck at home unable to move to their new country of work. The situation changed so rapidly for many people, that I would not risk traveling internationally right now unless you can afford to be there indefinitely. This may seem alarmist but I know people have lost their jobs from this or been separated from family and partners for months. I know Canada and the US are cozy but my embassy has informed me that they are not planning to extradite/assist anyone in traveling home.

        And what if you risk all that to travel to Canada and your clients would rather not meet in person? This would be too much risk for me to travel this year.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I work in a very international branch of academia, and yeah, international travel is a mess right now. Between cancelled flights and routes, closed borders and quarantine requirements, I wouldn’t count on being able to go abroad right now, being able to get home easily, or having medical insurance if you fall ill while travelling.

          There are still a lot of people stuck abroad four months after the first wave of shutdowns – mostly people who can’t get to major airports that have a flight to their home country, or who are in places with strong lockdowns. In most cases, countries are still open to their returning citizens, but you have to be able to get there.

          1. Ginger Baker*

            ^Yes this. I know someone who only recently made it back from Morocco – lucking out in getting on the single flight opened up to get US citizens back to the US.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I’d suggest the OP formulate plans for how to do whatever inspections, calibrations, etc., using remote technology.

    3. Willis*

      I think the OP should still say they are not comfortable traveling this year. Period, as AAM suggested. Giving an answer akin to “I would consider it but the border is closed…” may have the company looking for ways to get around the closure, asking the OP to go to a different location, or assuming that the answer might change if travel rules changed (or, of course, the OP might not be in the US anyway). If the answer is you don’t feel safe to travel this year, say it directly so they have an answer. Asking questions about logistics makes it seem like a possibility if they give you satisfying answers, when really it sounds like this is a (totally understandable and justified) “no” regardless of the company’s answers.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        All of this. Take the travel completely off the table and suggest virtual meetings. It may even help for the OP to proactively reach out to these accounts and get their consent to virtual meetings in writing to take it to OP’s upper management team as proof that business travel right now doesn’t even make sense, nor is it welcome from the clients themselves.

      2. agnes*

        +1 This is not the time to pussyfoot around the issue. I have a friend whose non-profit organization is trying to strong arm her back into international travel–and this is an organization focused on public health! Point being that business needs will often overshadow employee concerns even in the most ‘benevolent’ of organizations.

    4. Mainely Professional*

      Also, travel restrictions aside, a traveling salesman was one of the super spreaders who kicked off the local epidemic in Maine and caused cases in other states.

    5. LindsayAerin*

      I am in canada I live in a border city.
      We are in such a better shape than the USA! We know border patrol agents who are saying they are turning away Americans trying to get over here constantly with crazy excuses for neeeding to get in. But also people traveling for business can still come across so it’s possible this business travel would be allowed into Canada.

    6. JJ*

      Pretty sure your clients aren’t going to want to see you anyway for safety reasons, why can’t this be a virtual trip? I would definitely decline physical travel…the airplanes are PACKED.

    7. Travel OP*

      Hello all,

      Thank you for all your replies and insight.
      Most of you are correct in assuming travel is from US to Canada (which is currently impossible due to border closures).

      My employer understands the current limitations but wants to draft a plan of action with travel starting Sept/Oct. The work is completely non-essential and could be done virtually however eliminating the travel option all together is beyond my power.

      There are several reasons to believe this won’t happen. Aside from that my greatest concern is the risk I would pose to the clients I visit, and whether they might simply refuse to receive me.

      Normally this travel involves 4+ flights a week, visiting 30+ clients in the span of a month. Given the figures I will reiterate that I will not be available for travel this year, point blank.

      1. Eva Luna*

        A trip like that, with a small twist of fate, could make you into a superspreader. Why are they even trying to have you make a plan given how much is simply un-knowable? It sounds like a colossal waste of time.

        1. Surprised*

          Yeah, what Eva Luna said.

          In the midst of a pandemic, the most polite way I can describe your company’s plan is ‘criminal lunacy’.

          Thank you for making the sensible decision Travel OP.

          1. Canadian in Health Care*

            “Superspreader travels to Canada in the name of InsertOPsCompanyNameHere, infecting 30+ companies and possibly their families?”

            …Could be a header on the first page of the newspaper journals across Canada and the states. Sounds both hilarious and horribly awful. Dear lord, I wouldn’t risk it. Neither should your company, unless it never wants to do international collaborations again.

            Thank you for being reasonable, Travel OP. Good luck with your conversations with your boss. Better safe than sorry!

      2. Taniwha Girl*

        Oh my goodness thank you for pushing back. I can’t imagine your clients will want a Canadian traveling domestically that much for so many in-person meetings that are non-essential and can be done virtually (after all, the pandemic will not be over in 2 months!!). Then add in that you’re coming from a country that’s a hotspot with uncontrolled spread?? There is no way that is happening this year!

  2. Kimmybear*

    I agree with Alison that your manager gave a bad reason to go to grad school but it may be more about their poor explanation than reality. Having working with many associations, the line between administrative staff and programmatic staff often includes a masters degree. It’s often so that members of the association trust that you have a deeper understanding of the field. Is this a field you want to be in long-term? See what else is out there and then decide.

    1. Mid*

      I’ve also found that in general, once you’re an admin, people tend to always consider you an admin, even if your job changes, as long as you’re at the same organization. This isn’t always true, but it seems pretty common. Leaving that organization might be the best career move for OP.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Totally agree. I suppose if you completely moved department, ideally shifting physical desk / floor /building as well, it might be different, but if you’re vaguely still in your old orbit, once you’re admin, always you’re admin.

        Deeply irritating, but I have found it to be so.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I have also seen that happen — this OP will be shocked at how different things will be at another organization. But it may still also be true that at the level and type of job the OP is looking for, a master’s would help.

      3. LindsayAerin*

        This is true!! I was stuck even after getting industry exams, credentials and designations etc. Which interestingly at least that company paid for me to do.
        They wouldn’t even consider moving me – I went to a new company using the skills and knowledge I gained at company #1 and am thriving at new company (though been almost 5 years at new company now so not new anymore I guess)

      4. Admins, can't find good ones*

        Yup, I work at a place that requires a certain grad degree to join the client facing team. And it has to be from one of maybe a dozen institutions, with a preference for three specific ones, like Harvard. But I know if I showed up with the degree, they’d pat my head and say, here you go, we saved your admin job while you were gone. I’d have to leave to move up because I’m way too “valuable” as an admin.

      5. Artemesia*

        A masters is a credential required for many higher level positions in non profits so it may be wise to get one — not to ‘show interest’ but because it is used as a screen.

        BUT once an admin you will be hard pressed to be seen as anything else at the place you work now so you need to look elsewhere for promotion. I’d start scanning the environment for other organizations where there might be opportunity, would get my resume in shape, and if a masters is necessary for the types of positions you want, get that done while you have a secure job. 5 hours is a long time to be stuck at your level without promotion; move on, on your own time table.

      6. Elizabeth West*

        Yep, many of the skills you learn as an admin are transferable, not to mention that you already have company knowledge. But many organizations don’t see it that way.

    2. MassMatt*

      A good organization recognizes talented employees and promotes them but alas there are many poor orgs that do neither. In many places people are pigeonholed into whatever role they Initially had and will have great trouble moving to another level internally.

      I worked for a large company like this, good people with prospects left, some who came back got lots of butt kissing about how great they were (because they left and worked for a competitor for a year or two?) but found themselves stuck again.

      I would be VERY skeptical of their recommendation of going to grad school. Do that only if it makes sense for what you want in your career, and/or if they will pay for it. From what you write it sounds as though it will actually make you less marketable and seems unlikely your manager is going to promote you because of it. Look and see what is available, many places are still hiring.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        and/or if they will pay for it

        This was my exact thought while reading. I would have responded to the manager with, “Of course I’ll get my masters as soon as the company pays for it,” lol. No way would I shoulder the expense for something like this with no guarantee that it would pay off for me either at my current company or when I’m job hunting.

    3. Asenath*

      Many organizations are trapped in the “irrelevant piece of paper” view of degrees, and insist on certain levels of education for promotion, regardless of whether that education is actually necessary to do the job. Maybe that’s the case here. I’d find out if it was the case industry-wide before I signed up for a master’s program – and even if the entire industry thinks you need a master’s to become a manager of llama care, check out possible master’s programs for suitability and your personal interest before signing up.

      1. Smithy*

        My industry is 100% like this. While the masters degrees in question in no way replace work experience and would likely be better replaced with strong management coaching – in most of the sector you will only rise so high without one.

        Now that does not mean taking a year or two off to be a grad student full time. Absolutely take advantage of online or compressed course timelines. Unfortunately, I’d also add that while those pieces of paper definitely matter, if you get one in your current place if employment it will not translate to any kind of immediate raise or promotion and still likely makes sense to move on.

        If your sector is like my money and the paper matters more than the degree – a note of advice, stick with your current job while doing the degree. Starting a new job and school can be a lot, so it can be easier to stay where you are, finish the degree and then immediately begin applying externally as OP MA + 6/7 years of experience.

      2. Grad School OP*

        OP here. Since submitting this letter, I spoke with the SVP in charge of the initiative that they want me to go to grad school for, and she told me that under no circumstances does a junior person in this field need a Master’s. If I want to get to the executive level, she admitted that it would be necessary, but I’m a long way from that, and maybe in the future I will be able to afford a program better.

        1. Stephanie*

          Nope, don’t go. Go hunt for funding or a program that you can do quickly/cheaply, if you do decide that route. But being overqualified can be as much of a hindrance as being underqualified.

        2. Lizzo*

          Glad you got confirmation! If/when you do decide to pursue a Master’s, please do consider the very real costs of the degree and what your expected ROI is. Sounds like you already are, but I can’t stress this enough: depending on your field, there are plenty of affordable options out there at non-top tier schools. I know friends who went to very expensive places for their MBAs, and at the end of the day, they purchased very expensive admission to an “elite” alumni network. The same degree at half the cost may suit you just fine if you can build your own network for job hunting.

        3. LunaLena*

          Glad you got clarification from an official source! I just wanted to address this real quick: “I’ve always thought about grad school, and wanted to continue my learning, but I could only do an online program”

          It sounds like you have the impression that online school is looked down on compared to “real” school? I work at a university, and just want to point out that this is absolutely not the case any more. Most universities offer online classes for people in your situation, i.e. working full-time but returning to school, especially for advanced degrees. I know several people who have received master’s, or even worked on PhDs this way. If you’re worried about how it will look on a diploma, many programs don’t distinguish between online or in-class, so you’d get the same diploma as everyone else. I went back to school myself over a decade ago and did a 100% online program, and the diploma says University of State, with no indication that I hadn’t even set foot in State in 15+ years by then.

    4. Threeve*

      I worked at a (small, very specialized) medical association, and all of our executives had PhD’s in…something. Sometimes relevant, like Public Health, but not always. And staff were encouraged to find something to add to their email signature.

      Personally I think it’s absurd to become a Certified Meeting Planner JUST to add “CMP” after your name, but that was very much the norm. Our doctors’ respect was proportionate to how important the letters after your name were, I guess.

      1. MassMatt*

        My industry is notorious for these designations and certifications, there are several that are widely known and respected and lots that are pretty meaningless. At one point fairly early into my career I had a string of them in my signature but came to realize the alphabet soup was detracting from the importance of the one I considered the most important so I dropped all the others and haven’t looked back.

        Certified Meeting Planner is hilarious. Do you have to do Continuing Ed to maintain it?

        1. Threeve*

          IIRC there are continuing education requirements, but they’re minimal. I have no idea if it’s useful or not, just that the main incentive for everyone at that org was the letters (and maybe to a small extent the actual paper certificate to display), not the actual content of the courses. People openly discussed what the easiest nominally-relevant certificates to get were. It was ludicrous.

          (All the doctors accumulated as much “alphabet soup” as they could, too. Medical specialties can develop their own weird microcultures, I think.)

        2. Anon Anon*

          Yes. And it’s not anymore a hilarious credential than PMP or any other continuing education credential is. I don’t have a CMP, but I sure as heck couldn’t pass the test. Knowing things like how many feet you must be from a fire exit or what your emergency prepardness plan should include aren’t things that I think most people can or should know. It’s why there are experts out there who focus on that.

    5. AVP*

      Yes to all this! I would just add that if you’d like to go into project management, there are soo many fields out there requiring those skills, so don’t pigeonhole yourself into one with an advanced degree unless you truly know that that’s where you want to be for the rest of your career. Organizing project-based work is very transferrable right now, though.

      If you were interested in leaving your current org and looking for educational advancement opportunities (which personally – I think you should, the “once an admin, always an admin” thing is real) – look into some of the programs around project management itself. Cornell’s online learning dept has a good program, as well as many, many weekend-based courses in different methodologies and approaches. Will these directly lead to a new job? Probably not, but they are the type of credentials that hiring managers look for and other PMs often have. It can also be nice to get an academic-style overview to a field that you may have happened into.

    6. Anon Anon*

      Associations are weird beasts. Some associations recognize that they need association professionals running the organization and value things like CAE and CMP credentials. Others are highly focused on having non-association professionals who have a degree in the field. So sometimes I think it’s just about finding the right association that values the association professional perspective rather than the content expert perspective.

  3. fhqwhgads*

    #5 if you’re still uncomfortable just saying no to travel the rest of this year, you could give them the threshold of “14 straight days of declining new diagnoses and zero deaths from COVID-19 during that same interval”.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Do you mean worldwide or at the destination? Because there are places that have hit those milestones and then things have flared back up.

      Honestly, I think it’s better not to give a specific marker. I’d say, “for the foreseeable future I’m not comfortable traveling; I expect that to last at least until the end of the year but then I will have to see how things develop.” We’re on uncharted waters so I think it’s better to just acknowledge that uncertainty.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I meant in both the place of origin AND the destination, at the state/province level at minimum (country if the place of origin isn’t US), but hell if OP wants a threshold that will not happen this year, sure call it worldwide.

  4. Jules*

    There are borders reopening, but the US has basically been blacklisted for its poor handling of the pandemic. Unless you’re an essential worker, Canadian borders are closed.

    1. Esme*

      Indeed. I’m struggling for a kind way to express this but the rest of the world is watching in horror at the way the US is handling this (and my country too for that matter) and I don’t see American travellers being welcome in many places unfortunately.

      1. mreasy*

        Plenty of us are watching in horror from within the US, it’s truly a nightmare.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, people outside the country are watching with horror, but i assure it’s nothing like the horror those of us trapped in it are feeling

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          YEP. Been holed up in my house with my 3 year old daughter for almost 4 months now. I see pictures from my network on Facebook of people meeting up and not wearing masks, not staying 6 feet apart, letting their small children get all up in each others’ business because “awww they just couldn’t stay apart!”

          I even got into a heated argument with someone who refuses to wear a mask despite our governor’s new order. Shared that I’ve been struggling with the isolation and had a lot of breakdowns, and if people would just wear their masks then this awful situation would be over soon. The gist of what she said was “you need to take some personal responsibility and stop blaming everyone else for your problems. If you’re so scared then you should just stay home. I’m taking care of my family. You need to focus on yours.”

          And this is why America is a petri dish.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Just had this argument with one of my DH’s extended family on Facebook. She decided to weigh in on a post of mine with this…stuff, and my philosophy is basically that I’m not likely to challenge what you post on your own page, because who has the energy? (Not me.) But if you bring it to mine…it will not pass unchallenged.

            Several of my friends also weighed in, none of them agreeing with her. And of course, she was like “well, I’m sorry you can’t accept disagreement…”. Despite being told, in detail, exactly why she was wrong. But maybe at least she’ll think about it a little. I was pretty sure nothing anyone said was going to change her mind, but at least everyone who read it is well aware of my stance on the issue.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            So many pictures of people on vacations and whatnot. It is infuriating.

            1. The Original K.*

              Completely agreed. My boss is on vacation with 15 other people who all come from different places, including COVID hotspots.

          3. Turquoisecow*

            Yep, Husband and I are staying home and not seeing anyone since we both have asthma and I’m pregnant. I keep seeing people on social media talk about how they had a “social distanced” gathering in which nothing looks distanced at all. Obviously I’m not going to call them out, but I’m staying home right now.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I’m not particularly high risk, but my DH would be at greater risk of complications if he caught this. A friend of ours has had it…and she is still trying to recover months later. This is NOT something to mess around with.

              So, except for DH going to work (because he has to), and doing the occasional grocery run (I’m having most stuff delivered). We’re staying home, talking to friends online or on the phone, and stuff like that. The way things are going, I don’t anticipate this changing much before the end of this year.

              Luckily, our state allows you to request an absentee ballot without having to give a reason, so we’ve both requested them so we’ll be able to vote without going to a polling place.

              1. nonprofit director*

                Sounds like our situation. DH is at higher risk of complication, but continues to work. I work at home and do only essential shopping, in order to reduce is potential exposure as much as possible. I don’t see this changing any time soon.

            2. Artemesia*

              We are doing social distance dinners with friends — one couple at a time in either a park or on a private rooftop where we can be masked inside and socially distance and in open air when unmasked. It is not easy and with more than one other couple, it would be very hard to do reasonably safely.

              A party with 10 people — unless everyone is masked, no way.

              1. nonprofit director*

                We have visited my parents a few times. Outside on the patio, all with masks and distanced. It’s weird, but better than nothing. Zooms with friends.

        3. Stephanie*

          Yup yup. And my state is (maybe was) one of the states that handled it decently. But with no coordinated efforts at a national level, you’re seeing what you see now.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          This, and now I’m having to ask companies I apply to about their COVID precautions as a screening tool. Too many people who aren’t taking it seriously.

        5. Lovely Day for a Pandemic*

          Yes those of us stuck here are indeed horrified and most of us know we have been led to the slaughterhouse by a lack of leadership, ironically. Contrary to how the news makes it appear, we aren’t all stupid.

          1. Lovely Day for a Pandemic*

            To the OP, don’t be afraid to speak up and say you’re not comfortable travelling for the foreseeable future. It’s completely understandable and reasonable. Heck, I’m not even comfortable going to a village board meeting.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        I had already heard this, but it’s useful to have it directly confirmed. Even though I’m cringing to know that is indeed how we are seen right now, thanks for this. :-(

        1. Kiwi with laser beams*

          For what it’s worth I view people like you as “normal Americans” and people like certain political figures and the worst members of the public as “people normal Americans have to deal with”. My reaction tends to involve flipping the bird at the TV when members of the second category are on the news rather than judging all Americans. Happy to see your curve has gone down sharply in the last few days, hope that continues.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve got a Facebook friend who was over in the USA on holiday (I know) last week and while they’ve got back into the UK again absolutely nobody wants to even see them. Effectively they and their family are locked in their house for 2 weeks.

        The risks of travel at the moment are through the roof, not only in the catching and spreading the virus stakes but also in being kept in lockdown again afterward.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Why? Just… why??? What could be so appealing here that they would take that risk?

            1. Lizzo*

              …but nothing’s even open in NYC right now. Broadway is closed until early next year. Restaurants are barely open. And most airlines are allowing for postponement of travel with flight credits and/or full refunds, so canceling a trip wouldn’t be a big financial loss.

              I’m extremely curious to know how they spent their time there. If they were visiting family, cool, but if it was exclusively to do touristy things…

              So. Much. Facepalming.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          People in the US are still traveling to the hot spots. I don’t blame anyone, either inside or outside of the country for not wanting anything to do with people who are partaking in that kind of high risk travel shenanigans.

      4. Ego Chamber*

        Removed. No politics here, please. (Also, this is getting really off-topic.) – Alison

      5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        The world is looking at the US the way the US is looking at Sweden (except for the Americans who are going “woohoo look at Sweden no lockdowns go Sweden herd immunity!”)

        1. ...*

          Honestly how does this comment have anything to do with a LW traveling to Canada who never even said she was from the USA?

      6. snoopythedog*

        Yes. If you are coming from the US to visit Canadian companies/people in person…. I’m not actually sure many companies will want to meet you face-to-face OP.

        But none of that really matters. You can say no because you don’t feel comfortable. Full stop. If that doesn’t work, you have a lot of other evidence and questions and policies you can fall back on. (like requesting a full company policy to deal with any consequences of your travel…which if they do it well, they will likely realize the risk-reward ratio is too high).

    2. Anon Admin*

      We have an employee who just returned from an out of state vacation that is one of the new hot spots, posting dozens of pictures with no social distancing and no masks. I asked last week if they were going to be required to quarantine when they returned and you would have thought I asked for someone’s first born. The response was “we can’t ask someone to quarantine and not get paid for 14 days”. WHY NOT? I understand some people think it’s not as bad as it’s being reported or one of the other dozen conspiracy theories that seem to be out there, but over 100,000 people dead and another 150,000 new cases- yeah, if you choose to go to a hot spot for a vacation, you need to quarantine. Because we have multiple staff members that rotate through our six locations, one asymptomatic person is all it would take to shut us down again. I’m trying to remain calm and do all the recommended precautions (masks, social distancing, etc.) but I see people that are just skipping along like “la-dee-da” and all these huge parties on the news and I’m terrified.

      I hate the idea of a nationwide lock down, but how else can we slow the spread if people refuse to wear a mask and social distance?

      1. Dove*

        “The response was “we can’t ask someone to quarantine and not get paid for 14 days”. WHY NOT?”
        I feel like the correct response to *that* is to go “Then pay them for the quarantine period.” It’s not like it’d change the budget any, if the other option on the table is “let them come in to work while potentially infected”.

        1. Anon Admin*

          That would be the correct thing to do, but it’s not going to happen. The management tier that makes those kind of decisions is relying on people self-reporting and temp checks at the door. I would love to post a shot of the A frame sign outside the employee entrance that lists the reasons you shouldn’t enter the building. It includes a line that says “have been to an area that is afflicted by COVID in the last 14 days”. Hello? All of America has had COVID for the last 14 days, so none of us should be entering! I asked about that and was told if I didn’t feel safe I should stay home. Sure, I’d love to stay home, I’ve been doing my job from home for 3 months during the shutdown of our physical location but now that it’s open we have to go back unless we want to use up all of our PTO and/or not get paid. I know staying home more than a few days unpaid would get us fired.

          It would be so simple to just follow basic guidelines (wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, etc.) and stay home if your sick and quarantine if you could have been exposed or have been to area that is seeing spikes (especially if you did not wear masks or social distance) but some people just won’t do it.

          1. Anon Admin*

            We are required to wear a mask and social distance at work, but with conflicting reports on how much protection you actually have with cloth masks, I don’t know if they would protect us if someone was contagious. I have 4 that use PM 2.5 filters that I change out daily but they are pricey and the filters are sold separately and almost all the local store are sold out of coffee filters to use as substitutes.

            Sorry, I’m having a bad day worrying about my health and how to protect my family and it’s grating my nerves that some people have such little consideration for others. Missing your annual Florida beach vacation for one year is not going to ruin your life.

    3. Ariaflame*

      Heck, parts of the internal borders in Australia are still closed and we did pretty well. But hotspots are still cordoned off, and interstate travel is severely restricted. But people prioritise their whims over other people’s lives and the USA happens.

      1. charo*

        IF my country’s health experts tell me to wear a mask and socially distance, I believe them. It’s not political to me unless someone makes it that.
        It’s SCIENCE. When there’s an outbreak of an STD or HIV, the clear answer is condoms and “safe sex.” It’s not politicized into “I wanta be free to do what I want.” SCIENCE.

        IF I had an employee who refused to take safety precautions for whatever epidemic/pandemic, they would be fired and reported to health agencies.

    4. Kiwichick*

      Agreed – New Zealand borders are closed to all but returning citizens and they are going into managed isolation/quarantine for 14 days and must test negative before they are released into the country. Your work may want you to travel, but depending on the intended location it may not be your choice!

  5. Casper Lives*

    #2 Is your company generally organized and communicates well? I know you haven’t been there that long. It sounds like either this guy was newly promoted to your manager and thinks micro-managing is the way to go, or he was unaware of who is reporting to him and is over-compensating for not managing you at all. It’s a weird situation. My jobs have always been clear on who my manager is on the first day.

    1. Kiitemso*

      I had a change of manager recently (within the last 3 months) and we had both advance warning, where me, my colleague, my then-manager, new- manager and their manager sat down briefly to discuss the change and what would change and what would not change. It was an open dialogue and seemed to go quite well. Then after the change happened officially, me, colleague and new manager had a Teams sitdown to discuss best practises going forward.

      My company is not perfect with internal communications but the transfer was very smooth and incredibly well communicated. Which sounds like the opposite of what happened to OP. I would ask for a sitdown (or a video conference nowadays if everybody is remote) with the old manager, new manager and talk it over. Especially if OP is being inundated with new stuff to work on, well beyond her capacity, that kind of thing should be discussed in advance or explained. Like, “In June our workload increases by about 25% due to [factors], which means you should prepare for increased workload that eases up by mid-July.”

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Honestly given how many companies do all reviews at one time, I suspect NewManager’s review included the feedback that they’ve been ignoring a direct report. With no instructions on how to be a manager.

      1. MissGirl*

        I was wondering this too. That this isn’t about the OP but the managed getting a kick in the pants. Either way it sounds exhausting.

  6. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

    OP1 If your employer wants you to complete a Master’s degree in order to advance in the organisation, would they be willing to pay for it? And if so is it something that you would be interested in doing?
    Personally I think it’s ridiculous that they want to to jump through this hoop when you have already proven yourself over the last five years, but if it’s something that they want and that you’re interested in, it could be worth asking.

    1. cncx*

      this is where i’m at. if they’re saying it’s an issue they could also pay for it. it’s not fair to make someone incur student debt if they have already been doing a godo job for five years.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That was my response “yeah sure *I* will take on a ton of debt to show YOU how serious I am” that’s a solud no from me. Even if you got a raise it would all go towards paying off your debt.

    2. Grad School OP*

      If they were to pay for it, I would go for it… but they won’t. They will reimburse the maximum tax deductible contribution which is I think $5000 a year, and only if I get straight As.

      1. IT Guy*

        That’s really nice of them to do. That would have paid for half of my Masters. Took four years to complete outside of work.

        1. Cercis*

          My previous employer only covered tuition, not fees or books and only at a rate per undergrad credit hour charged by the cheapest state university (which didn’t happen to be the local state university). It would have paid for about 1/4 the cost of a master’s degree, because fees and books were more than half the cost of the program and grad credits are more expensive than undergrad credits. I started a program anyway because I could afford 2 classes/semester. And then ended up moving to a new job and city before the first semester was completed (so I finished out the semester and then dropped out).

      2. Teapot Tía*

        This may be a minor consideration, but in general it’s MUCH easier to get A’s in grad school than in undergrad or high school. Course load is usually less, especially if you’re working, and most people have picked up a lot more general time-management (& maybe specific field-oriented knowledge) in the years since college.

    3. Khatul Madame*

      Employer education funding comes with many strings.
      Even if going with a standard tuition reimbursement route, the employee must commit to staying 1 year after the course completion. Corporate employers usually have limits on tuition reimbursement, and they are pretty low – 3-5K per year.
      I don’t see the OP1’s employer funding the entire cost of a graduate degree, but supposing they did, there would be a similar commitment of staying several years after. So OP1 would be stuck there for the duration of their course of study + several years more.
      The OP1 has been there for 5 years; so far their career trajectory has been pretty flat and it’s likely to stay this way for at least while they are in school. Later… they may promote the OP1 based on the degree, but it’s far from guaranteed from what we know of their past performance.
      TL;DR OP1 has a much better chance for a higher job title and salary if they find a new position. If they still want to go to school, better to do it on the new employer’s dime.

      1. Stephanie*

        I’m in the middle of a degree funded by my employer. Our clawback isn’t onerous (two years after completion) and I work at a Very Large Corporation where I could find a role (albeit with some legwork) that would fit the degree once I completed it. But yes, it’s definitely something to consider if you do get sponsorship. I have a couple of classmates/coworkers who are getting sponsorship and realize they don’t want to keep working at our employer.

      2. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. I turned down tuition reimbursement for a certification because I knew I did not want to be beholden to the company for the terms required.

    4. Paulina*

      It sounds like the supervisor is happy having the OP where they are (which does make things easier for the supervisor), and is basically saying “don’t expect us to pay to train you if you’re not willing to pay for (a lot) more training first.” Which ignores a lot of aspects of what the OP has already been doing and the time they’re willing to put in. Moving on can be needed to escape the pigeonhole, especially if your supervisor may have an interest in you not advancing.

  7. pcake*

    OP3, so many companies do screening that is almost totally ineffective. People who have Covid-19 are usually asymptomatic but contagious for days before they develop symptoms – and some people don’t. So asking about symptoms is shutting the barn door after the horse is gone – anyone with Covid-19 won’t know for days or over a week, and by the time they show symptoms, everyone who works with this person or come in contact with them will have been exposed.

    That’s the entire reason behind distancing and masks. The masks are to keep the droplets inside the mask instead of spreading it to others, the distance is because no mask is perfect and droplets without a mask can hang in the air along with the virus for minutes or hours.

    Your company is being intrusive for no reason because they’re clueless. Good luck to you!

    1. TROI*

      My company is doing this exact same thing as the OP described, but I think the app they use will clear you to go in or not without a human having to approve the information. It probably is ineffective but I don’t see it as irrationally intrusive or clueless. They are trying their best I guess.

      1. Ikora Ray*

        It’s security theater, nothing more. They want the employees to feel safe coming in, so they’re making everyone do intrusive screenings that accomplish nothing. I have to take my temperature when I come in. Why? If you have COVID-19, by the time you’re running a fever, you’ve been contagious for days. On the other hand, I can randomly have a fever from my autoimmune disorder, something I don’t want to discuss with anyone but my doctor. I’m terrified I’m going to be running a fever from my autoimmune disorder and trigger a panic in the office. It’s all downsides and no protection at all.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is a daycare issue too as little kids are notorious for having fevers for little reason including for teething. My granddaughter’s bubble camp — 6 kids — 2 guests each for each of the homeowner’s two kids and a nanny — just started and already one kid had a fever this weekend — probably nothing, but that means all the families in quarantine and limbo. Can’t imagine school in the fall.

    2. Jackalope*

      Also with that, there are many reasons that someone might have symptoms that aren’t from COVID-19. For example, someone with asthma or who smokes might cough a lot, someone with allergies might have a stuffy/runny nose, someone with COPD could have shortness of breath. Do you lie, or do you explain that you have Condition X and hope they let you come to work instead of using leave? Checking symptoms helps somewhat but leaves a lot of room for error.

      1. Anonys*

        Yes! My allergies are going crazy right now, so I have cold symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, sore throat) constantly. If I worked somewhere that required this (we are wfh rn) I don’t think I would ever be able to go into work. I understand why companies feel the need to do this and I think now more than ever one should stay home when feeling even mildly unwell. But for some people basic COVID symptoms are just what they experience every day. I’ve gotten some very dirty looks for sneezing in public recently (I wear a mask in stores and crowded areas and always sneeze into my elbow).

        1. Catherine Tilney*

          So true! I have allergies and gotten the stink-eye a number of times for daring to cough in public. I do wear a mask, but I’m starting to think I need a tee shirt that says “allergies only: not contagious”.

          1. anon lurker*

            Y’all. It is possible to have both asymptomatic COVID and have allergies. It’s great that you are still wearing masks and sneezing into your elbows but please stop with the “it’s just allergies!”. YOU DON’T KNOW.

            1. Jackalope*

              Yeah, this is super unhelpful. I KNOW that at any point I could have asymptomatic COVID, or that the symptoms could in fact be COVID and not allergies/asthma/etc. I’ve worked to live the last 4+ months with the knowledge that I never know if I could be contagious and acting accordingly (masks, keeping appropriate distancing, etc.). And every single cough has made me nervous in that intervening time.

              BUT… I have some chronic allergy issues. I’ve had some of those symptoms off and on with varying degrees of severity since at least February. If I could only work when I was asymptomatic I would be unemployable this year, and if my household and I could only go to the grocery store (for example) when we had had no symptoms for two weeks we would have starved. (Grocery delivery not really being a thing in my area…) I’m fine with employers asking about symptoms and using those to consider options for their employees, but if we have to be shut in the house until we are symptom-free many of us couldn’t live.

              1. Jackalope*

                Thought through my response now that I’m a bit more awake and wanted to add that I’m fine with everyone working at home when possible; I’m happy to stay home if my chronic allergy symptoms make people concerned (and someone with asthma or COPD should be staying home anyway if at all possible). I’m also fine with extra tests for someone who has chronic issues (or something easily attributable to something else, like say you just cleaned out your dirty shed and now you’re sneezing for the next two days), just to make sure that their temp is down and things can be attributed to something innocuous. I’d rather be too cautious than get someone sick! I’m just arguing with a (hypothetical) employer who would send you home if you are showing any symptoms whether they are chronic for you or not, and wouldn’t provide other options (work from home, COVID test before you can come to work, etc.). I’d like to think that employers wouldn’t do that, but we’ve all spent enough time on this blog to know that some of them most certainly would.

            2. Database Developer Dude*

              I do know. I’ve had the same seasonal allergies every damn year in this area. I know what it feels like. The pollen count goes off the charts and I get miserable without my Zyrtec.

          2. V*

            Not to be awkward, but you don’t actually know you’re not contagious at any given point. I also have allergies and cough a lot as a result, and I had what I believe was COVID-19 back in April, and I didn’t realise it for the first day or so (until the fever hit) because I put the coughing down to allergies.

            1. Colette*

              That’s true, but those of us who have allergies or a chronic cough can’t just … never go out. We need groceries as much as the next person!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A co-worker who does have to go to the building for a hands-on job carries a doctor’s note about her chronic sinusitis. She points out she’s being extra-careful about masks & distancing because she’ll get less warning than others might.

        1. Lovely Day for a Pandemic*

          Another chronic sinusitis sufferer here. I wouldn’t worry too much if you are masked up. When my throat gets too dry I cought, so I’ve been trying to suck on mints a lot when out. I reserve my stank face for the unmasked or even worse, those with masks pulled down to their necs exposing their nose and mouth.

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        My workplace has initiated similar screening and it specifies *new* symptoms — yeah, I’ve been coughing and have shortness of breath sometimes, but I always cough and breathe funny so it’s not worrying.

        That said, staff are only returning to (very sparse) in-person work in our department starting this week, so I have no idea yet how sensibly the screening will actually be implemented in practice.

        1. MayLou*

          The tracking research app in the UK (I believe it is by an organisation called ZOE) gives you options: “I feel physically normal” or “I don’t feel quite right”. If the latter, you go into more detail. I like it because it allows for chronic conditions and illnesses.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Bless the NHS for pointing out to me that the tetanus shot I had to get (my cat seriously bit me) would make me feel flu-like symptoms for a while after. Otherwise I would have been genuinely scared.

            (Note, I’m still staying indoors. I don’t want to risk it not being entirely due to the shot that I feel like crap)

      4. KRM*

        We have an app to fill out to get green lit to come in, and it asks if your symptoms are new, or easily attributable to other issues. I didn’t have to go in the office while my allergies were awful, but if I did, I could enter “spring allergies” on the app and still get cleared to go in.

      5. KoiFeeder*

        I had an interesting time of things at my recent sleep study because I have asthma and an autoinflammatory disease- cough, shortness of breath, and fever all in one!

        The conclusion was that my medical conditions meant that if I actually had COVID, I’d be dead, not doing a sleep study, so they let me in.

    3. Brie*

      even if someone has previously been infected it’s important to identify people with symptoms to halt further virus transmission.

      Masks and distancing are effective but there will always be some level of improper use.

      I get screened daily and have my temp checked…the past 4 months. It’s annoying but it’s the world we live in.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      If you’re doing proper contact tracing and quarantining in an area where cases are under reasonable control, it can be very useful, however.

      At my job, we have to report if we are experiencing coronavirus like symptoms, or if we’ve had close contact with a known case. If that happens, anyone who is in regular contact with a suspected case is sent to work from home until the results of the test come back negative. If the test comes back positive, all those employees are tested, remain in home isolation for two weeks if they test negative, and are tested again before returning to the office. (If they test positive, they’re transferred to a negative pressure hospital room until they recover). We are not told who the potential case is, only what general area of the office is at risk.

      Early on, there was a small cluster in another department. When one case emerged, they were able to identify the source of the infection (someone who had recently returned from abroad), and catch the people it had spread to before it made it out into the wider community.

    5. Taniwha Girl*

      I disagree that screening is almost totally ineffective. Of course we know that people can be contagious while a- or pre-symptomatic, but surely distancing+masks+screening is better than just distancing+masks or just distancing or nothing.

      Let’s say Fergus goes into work Monday and works with Jane, but on Wednesday he develops symptoms and stays home. He may have already passed it to Jane, but the screening stops him from passing it to Wednesday coworkers.

      My company has been screening everyone who comes into work and I think it’s great. Every bit of prevention helps. Unfortunately I think we have to sacrifice a little privacy about possibly having symptoms when it affects everyone around us so dangerously.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Especially as it’s become increasingly clear that viral load matters. Better for Jane to be exposed on Monday but not Wednesday than Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, especially if Fergus started coughing, and therefore aerosolizing his spit, on Tuesday.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yeah, and this gets at another thing — it helps us feel like something’s being done, that the company is concerned and trying.

        What’s surprising to me is, why has no one mentioned that it’s MARKETING who’s in charge of this instead of HR?

        1. Colette*

          It might be that the marketing team has more time available than HR. As long as they’ve been properly trained re: confidentiality as well as the criteria for the screening, it shouldn’t matter what group they are officially in.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            That’s what I was thinking — if this task is being given to people whose work is slow right now (and I’m sure it’s not actually marketing).

        2. Katrinka*

          Without knowing the company structure, it might be that the people in Marketing have more time to track these things than anyone else. Or the HR person is overwhelmed with other things right now, or any of a number of other reasons.

        3. Taniwha Girl*

          I agree that it’s weird but considering how many HR staff are running around revising official polices and tracking WFH and ensuring compliance, I think it’s OK for someone else to do the actual screening. We have admin staff or whoever is near the door use the thermometer reader.

      3. Mama Bear*

        We do a prelim screen and temperature check here for any visitors.

        We had one reported case of COVID. Contact tracing in the office was done through HR – the sick person gave a list. Those people were contacted and requested to get tested themselves. The office was cleaned by the landlord. That was a month or two back and there were no further cases. Symptoms matter but mild ones, too (if you are symptomatic at all). My coworker had mild symptoms but thankfully thought “huh, that’d odd” and got tested. My office is very liberal with the staying at home thing. Keep your germs to yourself. I think if OP is worried about who is doing the data crunching, OP should ask for clarification.

    6. Andy*

      You are the most contagious when you have symptoms because viral load matters. It is nit the case that you already infected everyone when symptoms show, you can still infect even people who you met before.

      Also, removing people only after symptoms from office is better the removing no one.

      This logic where the measure have to be 100% effective and perfect else it is pointless is wrong. Taking probabilities down is fine enough.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        THIS!!

        …removing people only after symptoms from office is better than removing no one….
        Taking probabilities down is fine…

      2. Katrinka*

        Contact tracing uses two days before symptoms first show up. But the person can be contagious for a while afgter that time, until they are three days without a fever (without meds) AND all symptoms are improving. The time period for someone to start showing symptoms from exposure is anywhere from 2-14 days, with most right around the five day mark. That’s why the adjacent folks are asked to quarantine for 14 days if they remain symptom-free.

      3. Observer*

        This logic where the measure have to be 100% effective and perfect else it is pointless is wrong. Taking probabilities down is fine enough.

        Exactly. It’s simply not possible to keep anyone from even coming in contact with someone who might have the illness. But reducing exposure helps. Whether it’s masks (which are not 100% effective), physical distancing (which doesn’t always work and is not always possible) or removing people who have a higher risk of being spreaders from social circulation, each thing help. Why else would we even bother with quarantine or the efforts are contact tracing?

    7. AnonCA*

      Screening questionnaires are mandatory in my jurisdiction as per the law. I wouldn’t necessarily call this company needlessly intrusive and clueless on the basis of the info in the letter. :/

    8. hbc*

      My company is being intrusive because we are legally required to do so, and screening is recommended by most authorities. I mean, would you be happy if someone working six feet away from a coughing coworker who has a sick person in their home just because they probably were asymptomatically contagious yesterday?

      I’ll admit, though, I don’t get the privacy concerns around this information. Ooh, someone knows that I don’t have a cough, fever, and that I didn’t travel internationally in the past two weeks. This is all stuff they could have figured out by me being at work, because my company isn’t letting us in if I have/done any of those things. And should you do get the virus or come down with a symptom, you solve that problem by not coming in to work and calling HR or your manager, keeping marketing out of the loop.

      1. WellRed*

        Some folks are super private when it comes to their workplace but yeah, they aren’t asking you for anything private or interesting. When I have a cough, my coworkers know it, screening or not.

        1. Katrinka*

          And even if it were private, in this sort of situation (pandemic), your employer has a right to know certain things (like pre-existing conditions).

            1. Observer*

              I would double check that. In the US, it’s generally been the case that things like temperature checks and requiring health information was stuff that a company was legally forbidden from doing. However, given the pandemic and the measures that are considered reasonable to combat it, the DOL has issued guidelines that make explicit exceptions. Which means that information about health conditions that would not cause symptoms that sound / look like Covid still would not need to be disclosed.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes — they cannot legally ask you to disclose preexisting conditions unless it becomes specifically relevant in some way (like due to an accommodation you’re requesting and even then there are a lot of rules around it).

          1. Colette*

            I can’t see any reason why an employer would need to know that you have a pre-existing condition.

            1. Observer*

              Well, if you have allergies or asthma for instance, they would need to know why you are saying that sneezing is not a symptom of covid for you.

      2. OP #3*

        Thanks Alison and everyone for your responses! Definitely sounds like it’s a “me” problem and not an actual issue, so I appreciate the feedback. For what it’s worth I absolutely never meant to sound like I thought we shouldn’t be screening (perfect or not I’m very much for screening) and I’m really sorry it came across that way, I think we should do everything we can to keep everyone safe and healthy. I know it isn’t super exciting information, but I don’t love sharing it with so many people. Obviously I’m just being silly. I asked early on if the teams receiving the information were trained in handling and being discreet with this information and I got a bunch of shrugs and “I don’t think so” responses which just made me uncomfortable. If we are experiencing any symptoms these coworkers are notified and we are digitally connected with a doctor who has to clear us (either back to work or refer us for testing) and I’m glad that we’re doing something to try and protect staff onsite. I just don’t love that one of these coworkers could share that I or someone else may have COVID without having the full information and I was wondering if there was something that might prevent that from happening (best practices on training or clear guidelines about what and who information can be shared with), but it sounds like this is just one of those things right now so I will do my best not to think about it! I think I’m mostly just nervous about the whole situation right now and this just hit me wrong because of everything else. Thanks everyone, it’s always helpful when you’re thinking about something too much to get some perspective from others who aren’t as connected to it!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Things are going to be weird for quite a while yet I reckon, just keep yourself safe mate :)

        2. Formerly Ella Vader*

          I am the person who does the screening in our small company. I am careful about not including anyone else in the email chain, and letting the supervisor just know the minimum (cleared to work / available to work as of Jul 17). This may make the rumours less accurate (e.g. “Cersei’s got the virus” vs “Jaime’s got a cough so Cersei went to get tested and is waiting for results”) but I wanted to start with this version now in case one of our people does get it later. The worker can always choose to tell their supervisor or co-workers more detail themselves, of course.

          In your position, I would be somewhat concerned about whether the people collecting the information were doing it properly, but if it wasn’t part of my job to take care of privacy, HR, or health and safety I’d probably be reluctant to ask. If I was going to ask, I wouldn’t ask the other bystanders – I might ask the screeners privately, so they don’t feel put on the spot, or I might ask Health and Safety if they were following recommended protocols, using an AAM phrasing about wanting us to be careful so we don’t get in trouble.

        3. Cap Hiller*

          No you’re not being silly! For my job, we read the screening questions at home and text our manager “I answered no to all the questions” [coming in to the office] or “I did not answer no to all the questions” [working from home].

    9. Keymaster of Gozer*

      From a purely virology perspective…no, it’s not pointless. Symptoms of Covid more often than not include ones that shed the virus in high amounts, such as coughing and sneezing, far more than just usual breathing does. Also by the point you’re showing symptoms you have far more of the virus in your system than at the start.

      It does reduce some risk. The methodology is still in its infancy during this though, but nobody alive today has experienced anything like this before. So I don’t think screening is a bad thing.

      1. RoseDark*

        I was reading an article recently that said part of the reason the US has done so poorly is that the CDC assumed that COVID-19 was like SARS or MERS and had the highest viral load when symptoms were worst, so weren’t bothering to focus on people who showed few to no symptoms, but in reality COVID-19’s viral load is highest BEFORE you start showing obvious symptoms. So the people with the highest chance of spreading the virus were the ones wandering around with a mild cough or no symptoms at all, not the ones in bed with fevers and trouble breathing.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Viruses are right sneaky buggers. They even have different methods of genetic information (I was interested in -ve strand RNA viruses, while my friend studied DNA viruses), some are less infectious once symptoms start, others are infectious from only a few days in.

          A little knowledge of one family of viruses prepares you not at all for a pandemic of a totally different kind. (I can bore people to death with the history of filoviruses like Ebola but admit I have little knowledge of coronaviruses beyond what was covered in my degree)

    10. Phony Genius*

      Where I work, we have a similar system, but the questions are less specific. You get a list of symptoms, and click Yes if you have any of those listed. You don’t say which one. It’s either Yes to at least one or No to all. There are a few other yes/no questions related to contacts and travel. You also have to take your temperature and state if it is above or below the allowable threshold, but not give the exact number. Then you send it to either your supervisor, or the designated screener for the day. The system was designed to keep the information as private as possible by keeping it as a pass/fail system.

    11. Observer*

      No, temperature and symptom checks are not useless. Done right they do cut down on the spread. Of course, since one can be spreading even before they get symptoms, you don’t want to depend on that alone.

      But most companies who are doing the health checks are ALSO requiring masks, distancing, etc. But there is not indication in the letter that the OP’s company is not doing those things.

    12. RoseDark*

      I work at Starbucks which is also doing pre-shift health screenings. You show up and have to take your temperature with one of those thermometer-guns you point at your face, and take a self-assessment that asks you if you’ve shown any primary symptoms, shown two or more “secondary symptoms”, been exposed to anyone with high exposure potential (like healthcare workers), been exposed to anyone displaying symptoms, been tested for COVID in the last 14 days.. I think there’s a few more questions too. At the end it tells you whether you’re cleared for work or if you have to go home. Yes, you have to take it upon arriving for work. It’s real great. So fun.

      Shutting the barn door after the horse is gone is EXACTLY what this is like.

      1. NotMyRealName*

        But one of the biggest factors in spreading infection is time. So if they send you home, they are limiting the amount of contact time you would have with your coworkers. The last thing I saw suggested that it takes about 5 minutes of face to face unmasked contact to transmit the virus.

    13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Actually it’s within many executive order to demand we screen. LMAO that you think this is the company being clueless and intrusive though. Glad you understand the state of things and have all the answers, are you working on that cure for COVID19 while we speak, doctor?

    14. nonprofit director*

      We are doing a screening similar to what the OP describes, except the email goes to the HR team and the employee copies his or her supervisor, who monitors for employee compliance. Most of our employees are continuing to work at home, but come to the office on an as-needed basis, and HR won’t know everyone’s schedules. (If employees are working at home, they obviously do not need to self-screen.) It’s not perfect and yes, people are contagious before they exhibit symptoms. In my state, employers are currently required to screen using CDC criteria, so this is the best we have. Along with making sure we don’t crowd our buildings and continue to remind employees to wear face coverings and distance while in the office.

      1. nonprofit director*

        Also, we are not asking for health information. We only want to know if the CDC screening tool says they seem to be okay or if they should stay home. If an employee were to report they need to stay home, HR would reach out in a few days to check on the employee, but we don’t want details. The only detail we would ever need is if a COVID-19 test were to have a positive result, so we could notify the local health department and initiate contact tracing.

  8. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Op1, check with other organizations similar to yours and see if a master’s is required or see if the other people that are higher than you have Masters degrees. You could even say that boss said to get a master’s and ask other co-workers what they did.
    Also, Could you ask why the company is not allowing you to go to trainings and conferences. Have you suggested specific conferences and trainings you’d like to attend. If so you might not realize that they Are for certain levels. I would talk with your boss and ask 1. Why he thinks a master’s degree is necessary and 2 besides a master’s what else could you work on for professional development. Who knows maybe you will learn something like you need a master’s to go farther in your industry or maybe there was someone before who they had done a lot of professional development for that flaked out and now they are projecting onto you. Of you think your boss, or someone else at the company would be able to give you honest answers I would consider digging.

    1. Grad School OP*

      Thanks! This is good advice. After sending the letter, I actually had a conversation with the person in charge of the initiative that I’m working on (who is not my supervisor – my supervisor does not know the field at all. It’s more of a piece of paper to them) and she mentioned that while I would most likely need a graduate degree to get to a senior level, it’s not necessary at a junior level. So I definitely need to have some conversations with leadership.

      My problem is, I haven’t been able to find any positions that are similar enough to what I am doing now that I feel equipped to move. Because I am not doing this work full time, I don’t know if I have the necessary skills to do it somewhere else. That’s a different conversation, however.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        If you like project management, you can take classes and get certification in that without going full degree. PM is highly in demand…

      2. Khatul Madame*

        It’s a different conversation, but you need to have it. CurrentJob 2.0 is not the only way to move forward. Map your competencies to job descriptions 1-2 steps above yours, see what’s missing, figure out how you can fill the gap(s).

        1. Grad School OP*

          Thank you for this! I think this is the middle step that I have been missing in my thinking. It seems obvious now, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to be strategic about things and getting stuck.

  9. Tracey*

    #2 – I like Alison’s advice a lot. This is insane you went from being pretty independent to being micromanaged to death. I’d talk to your former manager but also the current one. Give them the chance to change. However I feel badly saying this but sometimes the new manager won’t take feedback so you might need to think about leaving if this manager can’t ease up. I had to do that in the past.

    1. MassMatt*

      I am still trying to figure out what is going on that LW2’s manager is not who they thought they were (the person giving them their review?! That’s how it works most places) and instead is someone who was out of the picture until then, and is clearly terrible. This seems to indicate the place has LOTS of problems. Was this person just promoted? Was there a reorganization? Is this new person just an impostor with delusions of grandeur a la “Guacamole Bob“ in a memorable letter? The fact that the “new manager” was completely out of the picture until now is beyond troubling.

      LW you seem to be wondering if there is something you did to trigger this and I am thinking no, except maybe just working someplace terrible. People with great reviews are not normally then informed that there is some OTHER manager (with no skills or ability) they report to. This is bizarre. Absent a real fix I would say get out ASAP.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, even though the problem at hand is very straightforward – a wild horrible micromanager appears! – the whole setup is more than strange and confusing.

        From this part: “I recently had a six-month performance review in which my work was rated very well. All metrics were met and the higher-ups praised the work I’ve been doing.” it first seemed to me like OP simply didn’t have a direct manager at all – she uses passive voice and then talks of several higher-ups, although the performance review must have been written by someone, and presumably not a whole group of higher-ups.

        But I think that’s just a phrasing thing on OP’s side – which threw me at first, which is why I bring it up – and she did indeed think that the person she’d “originally been working with” was her manager.
        I think it wouldn’t be uninteresting to know how exactly OP “was made aware of” her actual manager. It could of course have come up organically (“… and of course Fergus doesn’t only supervise you but Wakeen and Clotilda as well…” – “Um, what.”) but IDK, something about the way it’s written seems to me like they did bring it up in a way that made it clear that this was probably new information to OP and that they knew that, like “We know it’s never been made explicitly clear but we only realised when we saw that Percival wrote your review but actually, your direct supervisor is Fergus.”. Which is… so odd. So, so odd. Like, OP must’ve felt like she’s wandered onto a movie set or something.

        I second Alison’s advice and scripts and I’d also suggest trying to get to the bottom of this because what in the heck has been going on here?!

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          My guess is that the “real” manager had been delegating his managing responsibilities onto someone who isn’t actually a manager (or something along those lines) and has now been told to stop that and do his job. Hence the now terrible malicious-compliance micromanaging behavior.

          1. Paulina*

            My interpretation/guess is the reverse (since the “new” manager didn’t come across before as being in a leadership role): that the management responsibilities were being delegated onto someone without properly communicating with everyone involved about it, this was uncovered when the time came to do the review (eg. by the now-apparent manager not being able to comment, which has reflected badly on him), and he’s now trying to make up for lost time and making a mess of things. (Which IMHO would be a very stupid overcorrection, since he should already know the OP’s review was very positive; it’s a lot easier to fall into agreement than not, but he may be trying to “leave his mark” or put down potential competition.)

      2. Junger*

        Maybe her “original” manager was actually some kind of team lead?
        Thats how my organization does it, as the team leads also write the reviews and advice the manager on raises and such.
        But then our manager doesnt interfere with the day to say running of the team, and everyone knows they’re the boss.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Right. I would think if OP’s original “manager” was just a team lead or supervisor, she would have been told that.

      3. Annie Moose*

        If LW’s organization is otherwise solid, I would assume it was some sort of reorganization that wasn’t clearly communicated. I’ve been in a sort of similar position where my manager was also the project manager, with a team lead under him. Things got shuffled around so the team lead nominally became my manager (he did my biannual review, etc.) but in practice I was still reporting to my original manager on a lot of stuff. There were a few months were it wasn’t clear who actually was directly responsible for me! (My actual job didn’t change, it was more like, “huh, am I supposed to tell Joe or Steve that I’m going to be out next Friday?”)

        It’s not clear to me if LW’s new manager is someone totally new to her, or if they were previously a fellow team member/team lead and this is part of an ongoing reorganization thing.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah. Sometimes this kind of thing is complicated. I currently work on 2 projects and report to someone who is on neither project.

          1. JanetM*

            Matrixed organizations for the win. :-) I’m a project manager. None of the people on my teams report to me.

  10. the consort Sha'ira*

    #4, I think Alison’s script is lovely – keep it light, nonchalant and don’t leave it open-ended like you’re expecting an answer, and you’re fine.

    I remember when I was new in my job and I had to leave mid-afternoon for a doctor’s appointment across town. My then-boss gave me the go-ahead, and then kept saying things like “I hope everything is okay.” I’d reply “It’s routine, no worries,” but he kept saying “I hope everything’s okay” whenever it came up (like when talking about which afternoons were available for meetings, etc). It started to feel uncomfortably/overly solicitous, and also like he was fishing for more info. Coincidentally, I had a hair appointment scheduled for later that evening, and I still remember him giving me a weird look when I came in with different hair the next day. I mentioned that the hair appointment had been at like 7, but it was pretty clear he initially thought I was lying about the doctor’s appointment to get my hair cut, when really, I just didn’t want to tell him I was going to Planned Parenthood to get a new birth control prescription because I couldn’t see a primary care doctor quickly enough after moving to a new city. Still kind of irritates me to think about it.

    Anyway, I digress – all this to say, if your concern is genuine (and with the caveats Alison noted), you’ll be fine. You just want to make sure you don’t sound like you’re expecting her to follow up with more information. Then the key is to take your cues from her about how to proceed, whether that’s to be a listening ear or be totally business-as-usual outside of scheduling/PTO requests.

    1. Canuck*

      I don’t know about “I don’t want to pry…” as I usually interpret that as “I don’t want to pry, but I am anyway.” I would change it to a more direct “I don’t want medical details as you shouldn’t share them…” and then offer a reminder of the leave and support that is available.

      1. MicroManagered*

        This! “I don’t want to pry” is like starting something with “no offense” or “this might sound racist.” Like if you are starting out with this, you need to rethink what you are about to say. Maybe this says more about the managers I’ve had, but I would not say anything. The power dynamic creates too much pressure to divulge medical info.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think if you start a *question* with “I don’t want to pry” then it comes off that way, but in a script like Alison’s I think it is appropriate and makes the right point. I think the idea is to make it clear that you aren’t expecting them to share anything, but that they *can* if they want to.

          1. MicroManagered*

            I think, coming from my manager, I’d interpret an “I don’t want to pry” statement as still something that expects a response.

      2. Colette*

        I think it’s fine to start with “I don’t want to pry” and then follow up with what the manager can offer (as Alison suggested). And it would be wrong to tell her she shouldn’t share her medical details. If she wants to talk about what she’s dealing with, that’s OK. (She shouldn’t dump a bunch of information on her coworkers that they don’t want, but there’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m off tomorrow for chemo” or “Turns out if you temporarily go blind, you meet a lot of doctors” or “just the regular cyst appointment”)

        1. TL -*

          Yeah. “I don’t want to pry, but I just want you to know you can talk to me if you want . I hope things are/will be okay” type language has served me well in non-managerial interactions at work. Plenty of people have said thanks and given no more details or never brought it up again, so I hope it’s been read as no pressure.
          “I don’t mean to pry” followed by a question is much more intrusive, though.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’d actually leave it alone. If my manager came to me and said what Alison suggested, I’d start worrying that they thought I was taking advantage of my sick days. They will come to you if and when they need to, but outside of that let it go.

  11. TrudyQueue*

    OP1, please please please tell me this isn’t a library, because it sounds so much like working in a library. Also, I had to get a master’s that was legally required in my state, but taught me literally nothing about the job I do now, and I’m still cranky about it (although, I’m glad I did it so I could get paid more?) I think it really depends on what the job is, because a lot of industries are full of wildly out-of-date requirements.

    1. Seal*

      That was my first thought. I’ve worked in academic libraries since I was an undergraduate, but was told repeatedly that unless I got my MLIS I would never advance beyond a certain point and would never get professional development opportunities. After working as a staff member for years I finally went to library school. While I actually enjoyed my classes, ALL of my practical skills as a librarian came from my years as a staff member. Even better: the best librarians I’ve worked with over the years without exception are those that worked as staff members first. That’s a dirty little secret they don’t tell you in library school.

    2. Anon Librarian*

      I missed this and commented below. Also in a library where you are not taken seriously without the degree BUT the degree wont get you a librarian position or a pay raise in my system. It just gets you a foot in the door.

      1. Seal*

        That’s what irritates me most. In librarianship, your ability to earn a masters degree is far more important rather than demonstrating your aptitude for the profession. Too many excellent staff members who can’t afford to go to graduate school get shut out of the profession while far too many mediocre librarians get promoted.

    3. Jennifer*

      I think this applies to most jobs. We all pretty much learn our jobs on site – unless you’re a surgeon or something. It’s ridiculous that people are asked to go into debt to fulfill a useless requirement when they’ve proven they can do the job.

    4. Grad School OP*

      Not a library! Definitely an old-fashioned workplace, however. I think that has a lot to do with it. While I would probably eventually need a master’s, through my research it is not necessary for the level that I want to be at, and since I can’t really afford it until I make more money… it may make more sense to move on and do it later.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yes. And if you do it later, make sure whatever company you work for at the time pays for it. If it’s that important to have, they should reimburse you for it.

  12. On a pale mouse*

    #3: I, a customer service clerk at a grocery store, received some very basic HIPAA training just so I could take people’s temperatures when they come in. Not sure how much good it does, but we’re doing it.

    Before anyone says HIPAA doesn’t apply to a grocery store:
    a) we have a pharmacy, where I’m sure it does apply. I’d have to read the statute to figure out if it would therefore apply to me, a non-pharmacy employee doing something unrelated to pharmacy business, but I’m sure they’re taking the cautious route on that.
    b) more importantly, I think we should be following the basic rules in the HIPAA training I got regardless of whether it’s legally required, so I’m glad they had us do it.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I like your second point. ..it may not be legally required for your position, but it’s the right thing to do!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Also let’s point out that just because someone isn’t required to follow certain procedures, many do it because it’s in their best interest to go above and beyond the bare minimum requirements.

      The more careful you are, as a large deep pocketed organization, the more money stays in those pockets.

  13. M from NY*

    OP1 You can also check to see if for your firld professional certification is appropriate. You may not need graduate degree but sometimes you have to make the investment in yourself then take certificate + experience to a better job.

    As long as they are comfortable with you performing administrative duties certain managers will soft block your advancement.

    I didn’t see anyone address this next point. Its not more difficult to find a job with a Masters. The problem some have is when they went straight through from undergrad. You have five years of work experience. Look at the tasks you’d like to grow into then see what experience and education you need to successfully apply (6 months, weeks or a year from now). Then do it!

    1. Diatryma*

      It can be more difficult to find a job with a Masters, depending on the field. Teaching and library jobs often don’t have the budget for higher degrees– they’d love to hire them, but can’t afford them. It’s possible to educate yourself out of any job flexibility. Having work experience helps, living somewhere with a lot of institutions helps, but it’s a factor.

      1. Anon Librarian*

        My library is the opposite, we often hire only people with the MLIS/MLS for lower jobs bc the competition for the jobs is so high. And we have no path to promotion. We don’t automatically bump the title or salary if you get the degree. So we hire lots of degree holders for entry level jobs and they use us as a stepping stone to get a job elsewhere.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        It can be more difficult to find a job with a Masters, depending on the field.

        This. Some companies do not want to pay masters level salaries so when they see a resume with an advanced degree on it, they pass.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I agree that there’s some nuance to that “it’s more difficult to find a job with a Masters” thing. Let’s say OP is in a field where an undergrad degree is sufficient for, say, support roles but a graduate degree is the norm for more programmatic roles. OP might find it more difficult to return to a support role after getting a Master’s…but presumably they’re going to grad school so that they can advance in their career.

      This only really holds up if a Master’s is in fact the credential of choice for the jobs that OP wants. As Diatryma pointed out, there are fields where being overqualified with a Master’s is a real thing.

    3. Grad School OP*

      “As long as they are comfortable with you performing administrative duties certain managers will soft block your advancement.” I honestly think that is exactly what is happening. It feels like a way of getting me to stay where I am for 2 more years instead of quitting.

      Since sending the letter, I spoke with the person in charge of the initiative (not my supervisor) who suggested that a certificate may be a good compromise. She suggested that while I may need a grad degree to get to a senior level, it’s not necessary at the level I want to be at. So it’s something that I could wait to do until it makes more financial sense.

      I guess every person I’ve known with a Master’s has had a hell of a time finding a job in their field but that is admittedly anecdotal evidence.

      1. Ali G*

        In most industries, Master Degrees should come with experience in the field. This is why Alison tries to convince people that you shouldn’t get an advanced degree to get a job. You will be 100 times more marketable if you get the degree AND have 5 or so years experience. Getting a Master’s now, without understanding how it fits into your career path, is a waste of time and money.
        (I write this as a person who got a Master’s after only working a year. I was lucky and it did end up being necessary for my career path but I didn’t know it at the time. It could have been a huge waste!)

  14. Retail not Retail*

    Op3 – we have had people from departments temporarily closed and now from the customer care department question us and take our temperature every day. This has been going on since we reopened to the public in mid-may.

    The thermometers aren’t calibrated right – my temp is 95, really? – and how should I know who I’ve come in contact with when my job doesn’t report new cases.

    It never occurred to me that this was a health privacy issue.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When my 13yo was a baby, we went through at least a half dozen electronic thermometers without finding a single one that worked correctly. We would take our temperature three times in a row and get three different values, none of which matched the temp taken with our old thermometer. Even the $40 version was unreliable. We gave up and trained our kid to use a real one as soon as possible.

      1. juliebulie*

        I would debase myself in numerous ways to get my hands on an old-fashioned mercury thermometer. Those were the BEST.

        1. Cercis*

          I have one. I used to have two but my younger son decided to fake a fever and stuck it in my hot water pot (water heated to 195F) and it broke. Ruined my hot water pot too. I guard the other one with every fiber of my being, keeping it in its case when not in use. Now that I think about it, I should have seen if that was something my mom had hoarded and I could have gotten a couple more.

    2. allathian*

      The trouble with those quick non-touch IR measurements is that they don’t measure your core temperature or even a reasonable approximation of it. They just measure your skin temperature and that’s dependent on a lot of other factors, including ambient temperature.

      Besides which, fever isn’t a reliable symptom for COVID, because some confirmed cases never get a fever at any time during their illness, even if they aren’t necessarily symptom-free otherwise.

      1. blackcat*

        Yup. I watched a bunch of people get turned away from walking into a doctor’s office near me, which was doing their screening outside the front door…. when it was 93 and humid, and in direct sunlight. I mean, yeah, I bet my forehead is a bit extra hot under those conditions! Doesn’t mean I have a fever!

        1. blackcat*

          Also, when I had COVID, my fever never went above 101. Most of the time, I was right at 99.0, which is not a fever (My normal temp is 97.5ish, so it’s a significant elevation for me, but not for many people).

          So yeah, I’m not into forehead thermometers for COVID screening. Seems ineffective to me.

        2. James*

          On construction sites there has been increasing attention paid to heat stress over the past few years. OSHA standards are to start monitoring at 80 degrees F, with increased monitoring requirements as temp/work load increase.

          Covid-19 has complicated things because it’s really, really easy to get >100 F body temp in the Southeast in the summer doing heavy physical work next to diesel engines and bright white buildings while in Level D PPE.

          Our work-around is to take the temp. If it’s >100 F the worker rests for five minutes in an air-conditioned setting and we test again. We also determine if we need to adjust the work/rest regime, but that’s not applicable here.

          1. Retail not Retail*

            I’m so glad they don’t take our temps on the way out! “Oh no you caught the rona here!”

            What really blows is our usual air conditioned hidey holes aren’t available. Either they’re controlling how many people go in or they’re keeping the doors open or both. Sometimes the shade is not enough.

            I am truly waiting on someone to fall out because of the heat and the PPE and any underlying conditions.

  15. Esme*

    #4 I have been the employee in this situation and I appreciated hearing something similar to this script – my manager said “let me know if you need anything from me or there’s anything you want me to know”. The last part didn’t come across as nosy (because she’s un-nosy in general) but as an acknowledgement that I could choose what / whether to share.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      I really like that last part (“…or there’s anything you want me to know”). That’s just about perfect, imo. Not nosy, at all.

  16. Rexish*

    #2 Did the new manger know they were your manager? Or did they get feedback that LW didn’t even know that new maanger was her manager? Did the old manager know that he was not your manager and Still gave you Performance review? This is ery weird. It is possible that the new manager is now overcompensating due to the situation and this could be solved with a discussion. Maybe you all should figure out the organisations structure and then have a talk with old manager and new manager about the micromanagement.

    1. Mama Bear*

      Or it could just be a jerk of a manager. I had a managerial switch and suddenly I went from a good review and a bonus to having a demoralizing manager. Old manager couldn’t do much about it and the powers that be decided to keep the new one on so several of us left as soon as possible. I’d talk to the new boss about the behavior and that will tell you if you are going to be able to work something out or not. In my case that talk was the nail in the coffin and I bailed.

  17. Cantusemyname mybossmightbewatching*

    I am a proud American (citizen of the USA), and *I* am watching in horror at the way the US is handling this. I would not welcome me with open arms as a traveler in my country, either. Unfortunately. I also absolutely do not work in the sort of job where travel is needed, and, as I work in a Nursing Home in the food and nutrition department – I deliver food and drinks to patients – I worry more than a little bit about the idea of “bringing my work home with me”. Parenthetically, did you know that a Covid “outbreak” means more than 3 cases in a facility? I have to stop now, or I will go on a rant.

    1. juliebulie*

      Odds are you don’t work in the nursing home where my grandmother lived, but just the same, thank you for helping to take care of helpless people in such a super-scary time.

    2. Mama Bear*

      I have relatives who have been on lockdown since at least early March. Even with precautions, three people died. I can’t help but think that was someone’s mom/dad/grandparent/spouse… :( Thank you for your job. I know it’s extra hard right now.

  18. Bookworm*

    #1: Obviously I don’t know what field you’re in and would agree that it really depends. I went to grad school instead of following the more “traditional” route for my field. In retrospect I don’t regret going (I did want to go to grad school) but in terms of my career I would say the help has been hard to measure, if it shows up at all.

    From your letter I get the sense they’re trying to push you out. Maybe it’s just me but the lack of willingness to help you invest in training and all that plus talking about grad school just makes me think that for whatever reason they really like you but also don’t see you moving up any further than where you are. I don’t know, only you know for certain. Hope it works out for you.

    1. ElenA*

      I also got the feeling that they are not interested in investing in you and your career. I am sorry if that is the case. “Just get a degree” seems like a really careless (but too easy) advice to give without further discussion.

      I am two years into my career and also trying to figure out how to advance. For me, I feel like I really need to take time to set my goals and only then make plans accordingly. Maybe you can find someone in your field or company who could give you some insight on how to proceed?

      1. Grad School OP*

        Nope, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, honestly. They want someone who will be happy to stay at the same level forever.

    2. Mockingjay*

      #1, A lot of places just hire for the job. When you prove yourself capable at that job, they want to keep you there. You’re cost-effective, get the work done with (likely) minimal supervision, and you’re reliable. If you moved up, they’d have to find and train someone else.

      But there may be ways to push back on the admin tasks you mentioned. The AAM archives have many posts about asking for prioritization so you can focus on main tasks. State problem and preferred solution so your boss has only to agree/disagree.

      “Boss, I’m focusing on the Foster initiative. We’re on schedule for the moment, but I’m being interrupted a lot with mundane requests from the other teams. Can we take these off my plate? [Or, “can you remind the teams to use the Outlook calendar for meeting invites?” etc.] If not, where do these requests fall in priority?”

      Pick a couple items to get off your plate. If that works, in a few months, try getting rid of a few more.

      You may still have to leave for advancement, but offloading some of this stuff and concentrating on project tasks will enhance your resume in the interim.

      1. Grad School OP*

        I’ve been going through the process of trying to get admin things off my plate (using AAM advice!) for a while now. Some of it has worked, some has not. I’m definitely happier now than I was a year ago, but I want to get promoted, dang it!!

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        A lot of places just hire for the job. When you prove yourself capable at that job, they want to keep you there. You’re cost-effective, get the work done with (likely) minimal supervision, and you’re reliable. If you moved up, they’d have to find and train someone else.

        This has been the story of my life, which is why I leave jobs (on average) every three years.

  19. Perfectly Particular*

    OP3 – I find this so odd that anyone is reviewing your forms. I would have assumed that they would just be filed away as a CYA in case of any outbreak in the facility. Who would fill out the form with any “yes” replies and still try to enter the building? So that’s how I would think of it anyway… it’s not personal medical information, just legal confirmation of what they already know. If you had symptoms or were close to someone with a positive test, of course you would call your boss and say that you can’t come in due to this, and therefore you would never fill out the form with the yes responses.

    1. hbc*

      I had a guy start filling it out and say, “So, if I check yes, you’re not going to let me work today, right?” I said, “Well, now it doesn’t matter what you check, because you’re basically telling me that one of these applies to you.”

      But yeah, I agree with your main point: if you consider this private medical information, don’t come in on the day when you would have to check Yes. I consider checking No as much revealing “private medical information” as, say, showing up to work wearing glasses discloses your vision problems or replacing the water cooler bottle reveals that you don’t have a severe back injury.

    2. Katertot*

      The only thing I can think of is that there may be a team reviewing trends- so for example, two days in a row your temperature may be in the ‘acceptable’ range but going up, to ensure they don’t just look at one day in isolation. I also know that in my organization we have lots of people not doing their normal duties- our teammate health and HR departments are extremely busy, so we’ve pulled in some other teams (I mean, probably not marketing haha) to help with some of the tasks teammate health/HR would normally perform.

    3. Generic Name*

      At my small company we have a system similar to this. HR handles the information, and if someone checks “yes” they get contacted by HR. To my knowledge, it hasn’t happened yet

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        That’s exactly how we are handling it. We don’t care about the people who pass, just the ones who don’t. And, yeah, there is a difference in how we handle it between you yourself having symptoms and you having been in contact with someone who has symptoms, so it IS relevant.

    4. doreen*

      Someone at my office had documentation that his cough was pre-existing , so he was allowed to work even with the cough. OK, that’s understandable. What’s not so understandable is that a week or two later, he and/or his doctor decided he needed to be tested for some reason- and he continued to come to work while he awaited the results. ( even though he would have been told to stay home without using leave) and when he disclosed that he tested positive- he did not leave immediately as he was told to. So there is no “of course you would call your boss” because some people just won’t. As a matter of fact, the governor of my state has ordered that people coming from certain other states must quarantine for 2 weeks and that state employees who left the state to travel will not be given additional time off for the quarantine, they will have to use their own time. People are advocating lying if they add a question about travel to the screening test – because not having to forgo traveling or needing use your own time is more important than protecting you coworkers- Significantly, the group that is opposed to lying bases their argument on the chances of being terminate of they are caught in the lie.

      I also want to point out that records aren’t kept of the answers or temperatures at my job even though human beings are asking the questions – only whether someone was not cleared to enter.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        All of this. Most of the testing sites are advising people to quarantine while they await results, but some people really think that doesn’t apply to them.

      2. QCI*

        Anytime the consequence of telling the truth is losing money, you’re going to get people lieing and hiding symptoms. The people who can’t lose that money tend to not have jobs with generous PTO/Sick pay.

        1. doreen*

          Actually in my situation , that’s not the case. I thought I mentioned that I work for a state agency – we have very generous PTO. The people involved are paid between $70-94K before overtime. The one who came to work while waiting for his test results would have lost neither PTO nor money – he would have been granted a special quarantine leave had he notified anyone he was tested, as he was supposed to. The people who are talking about lying just want to be able to go to North Carolina on vacation and get that special quarantine leave instead of using their own leave for the additional two weeks. I’m pretty sure the taxpayers don’t want to pay for additional leave for state employees based on their vacation choice – there are 34 states the quarantine doesn’t apply to. It isn’t always about people being unable to lose money or PTO.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s not only a money thing, it’s a control thing to many people.

          Lots of people won’t lose money because there’s generous leave in place and other options but they don’t choose to lie anyways.

          Sometimes it’s as simple as “I don’t think this is at all serious, so I’m not going to treat it seriously and I’ll lie my face off.”

      3. leapingLemur*

        “Significantly, the group that is opposed to lying bases their argument on the chances of being terminate of they are caught in the lie.” They might figure that this is the only way to get through to the prospective liars.

        I agree that the important part is not infecting people.

      4. Cassie*

        Speaking of traveling, a coworker who is traveling to visit family said they were going to get tested “just in case” before their flight. And I was thinking a) you need an appt to get the test and it’s pretty much limited to just people who have symptoms (unless you are an essential worker). I’m assuming they don’t have any symptoms (bc they’d say that instead of “just in case”); and b) pretty sure you’re supposed to stay home while waiting for the results. I’m seeing anecdotes that test results are taking days (weeks even?) so don’t know why they thought they could just take a test, get the result, and hop on a plane within 48 hours…

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Whether you have a fever today may not be especially personal. “I have a headache today, it’s yet another migraine and no I don’t want to tell you what meds I take” is private.

  20. SeemedLikeAGoodIdeaAtTheTime*

    For post #1; I’ve never heard that finding a job with a master’s can be more challenging. What is the logic on that? As someone with a masters degree, that has me super worried. I got it back in 2008 (and a month later, the recession hit, which was awesome for job searching)

    Anyway, while I’m pretty sure it hasn’t helped me with anything more than getting noticed (and it’s not worth the student loans to just get a few more interviews (in my field anyway)). I wonder if I should just take it off. I know my current employer doesn’t value it at all, and told me as much after a few too many glasses of wine at a company event (which also felt awesome). It’s in marketing, but it’s not an MBA. The education has been worthwhile in other areas. I’ve definitely applied the knowledge I learned but not in an easily quantifiable way.

    1. Metadata minion*

      If you’re applying for a job that doesn’t need a master’s — especially if there are higher-level versions of the same job that do — you can look overqualified and like someone who’s only going to stay until a master’s-level position opens up. Which is unfair, but pretty common in some fields.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      So, the reasons a masters can hurt you is that employers will think you’re overqualified. They might assume you want a higher salary than someone with a BA and rather than confirming that with you, they’ll just toss the resume if they have other good candidates with a BA. They might assume you’ll find the job too easy or below your level and become bored. Or they might assume you’re only applying for the job out of desperation, but will jump ship at the first opportunity that is more aligned with your education.
      But please don’t treat this as a rule – it’s actually the exception! But yeah, if someone’s applying for positions that don’t require a masters and consistently getting feedback indicating the above, it might be wiser to leave it off.

      1. Amy Sly*

        A graduate degree is great … if it’s relevant to the job for which you’re applying. If that job market is saturated and you’re hunting for jobs outside that field, downplay it as much as possible or even leave it off your resume entirely. Beth, it may be the exception, but in that case, every job I applied for between 2010 and 2013 fit in that exception. Heck, I couldn’t even get promoted from shoe salesperson to store assistant manager after two years of working at the shoe store because my managers assumed I’d jump ship as soon as possible. (Ironically, I was still working there after those managers had left for greener pastures themselves.)

  21. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I’m picking up on the OP saying management has ignored her requests to go to seminars and trainings. I’m wondering how and when OP is asking. If it’s “gee, I might like to go to ConferenceCon in April” that’s easily overlooked. If it’s OP showing Manager a flyer for a seminar and saying, “this is in April in NearbyTown and I’d like to go, can the company pay?” and that gets ignored that says something different. If it’s the former, I suggest trying asking in a different way.

    Also, don’t go to grad school just to make yourself seem more interested in your work.

    1. Grad School OP*

      I asked in the way you describe for years, then finally I submitted a written proposal, to which no one ever responded beyond “we will look into this.”

      1. MassMatt*

        Well, then your org is telling you they do not care. Either they think these trainings and conferences are not useful/cost effective or suitable for you, or they just don’t care about your professional development.

        It sounds as though you are a dedicated employee that wants to build your skills and take on more responsibilities but your employer wants you to just keep filing. I’d look for a better employer.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Yep.

          If your employer really cared, they’d pay for your grad school. Tuition reimbursement is one of the things you should look for in benefits packages.

          Since they’re not even going to cover the cost of short professional training classes, they don’t see any value in investing in their staff.

      2. Delta Delta*

        I see – then it sounds like the company perhaps isn’t interested in your growth. I know a lot of times the reaction to questions is to find another job, but it’s entirely possible you’ve gotten as much growth and experience as you can from this position. It sounds like you’ve been there 5 years and you’re sort of stalled – it really might be time to look elsewhere. And you’ll also be able to dip your toe in the pool to see if a masters degree really is required, or if it’s something that companies just want to see.

  22. Anon Librarian*

    For OP# 1, if the field is library related, the masters degree is, in fact, required for many jobs and is a way to signal seriousness. There are so many with the degree that we often see those with the degree competing for part time assistant positions. In my public library, 5 of 6 full time assistant positions were MLS/MLIS holders. And there is no path to promotion in my library, there are few librarian positions.

  23. RecentAAMfan*

    I’m from Canada, and given how the pandemic is being handled in the U.S., we’re certainly **VERY KEEN** to limit the number of Americans crossing the border (assuming that’s where you’re from OP.)
    And given the strict requirement of a 14 day quarantine if you do come, you wouldn’t have more than half the month available to work anyway

  24. blink14*

    Op #3 – My father has been going into his office pretty much on his normal schedule since his state went into lockdown – the company he works for makes some medical related products – and one of his fellow managers is the person designated to handle the day to day symptom checking. The company installed an automatic thermometers at all building entrances, and this manager also comes around daily to check people’s temps with a manual thermometer. If at any point you feel like you have symptoms or your temp is elevated, while on the premises, they have an isolation room and that manager is also responsible for making sure the person has their temp rechecked and for coordinating further care or leaving the building, if necessary.

    My dad said this hasn’t been issue at all, and is used to the routine by this point. He actually ranks above this person technically, but they are both at the high manager level at this location, and are fairly equal colleagues. Most of the employees have been working from home, but I would imagine that as they start to come back in, this manager will continue to do the health screenings for all employees, regardless of whether he is their direct manager or not.

  25. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1: Thanks for adding more details in the comments. With regard to the masters degree: 1) only do it if it’s absolutely necessary to advance in your field; 2) get it as cheaply as possible, preferably with support from your employer.

    I, too, am a little concerned that your manager won’t send you to conferences or training. I have a nasty suspicion that they like what you’re doing in your present position so much that they’re not open to letting you advance in the organization. While right now is a difficult time to job search, it wouldn’t hurt to update your resume and LinkedIn profile, then spend some time in the AAM archives looking for advice on search strategies. Even if you decide you don’t want to make a move right away, it can’t hurt to see what else is out there.

    1. Grad School OP*

      Thanks! Yes, I am getting the sense from these comments (and my bosses’ signaling) that I’ve been pigeonholed and they are looking for ways to keep
      me where I am. I will definitely check out the archives!

  26. Anonymous at a University*

    OP3, my employer is asking for the same information, although there’s nothing to say it’s being reviewed by any particular department, and I had a co-worker who, like you, was concerned about private medical information. The thing is, at least in our form, it’s about as bland as it could be (first a Yes/No question about whether you intend to come to work in person that day since we’re still officially WFH, then a Yes/No question if you answer yes about whether you’re experience symptoms of COVID or close to someone who is, and then a list of symptoms to check if you say Yes to the second question). I really, really doubt anyone looking over this is going to get exciting private medical information out of it, and it doesn’t sound like your form is that different. Are you concerned that the marketing department might spread around the names of people who answer yes or something like that? If that happens, it’s certainly something to push back on, but otherwise, I don’t see this as either private or something that would need to be shared with just your boss, any more than asking whether you plan to attend an event and if so, whether you need food accommodations is.

  27. AdAgencyChick*

    #1, I wonder if your boss is clumsily trying to say, “You won’t be taken seriously in this field unless you have a master’s.” They’ve seen you do great work, but when they send you out to conferences you are in some ways the face of the organization, so if it’s true that your field attaches a lot of value to the degree, they may not want to send someone who doesn’t have letters after her name on that ID badge.

    I learned this one the hard way, when a kind manager was willing to let me transfer into her department that normally requires advanced degrees, based on my performance in related work that does not require a degree. I did fine as long as she was there, but once she quit, my new manager immediately began questioning my lack of a PhD — and it wasn’t just her, it was also clients wondering why someone with only a bachelor’s was handling that aspect of the business. It didn’t matter that I had learned much of what I needed to know in years of experience in a related job.

    In some fields a master’s or doctoral degree, just as a bachelor’s degree is for many white-collar jobs, is just an accepted code to employers and clients that means “smart enough to work for me,” regardless of whether you actually put into use what you learned getting the advanced degree. Don’t know whether this is the case for you, but I wonder whether your employer was simply not good at articulating that.

  28. Not for academics*

    OP1
    Rule #1 – Only go if you’re fully funded.
    Rule #2 – Only go if you know it won’t lead to an academic job.

  29. A Simple Narwhal*

    Is there any chance the employee in #4 is going on interviews? We’ve definitely discussed using multiple doctors appointments as a cover for this here before.

    It doesn’t change the advice, just a further reason not to pry into things.

  30. Observer*

    #5 – Is there some context you are leaving out? Otherwise I’m rally baffled by your reaction. It makes a lot of sense that your company wants to figure out if it’s possible to make travel work- by your description it’s actually pretty important. That doesn’t mean that you should travel, or that it’s feasible to make it sufficiently safe. So, do what you need to do.

    But why are you refusing to give your company a straight answer? Why are you getting worked up about their asking a perfectly reasonable question?

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t think OP sounds particularly worked up but I agree with your general point and would like to propose a possible solution: I’ve known several people who think that if a question is asked, one mustn’t reply in the negative in any way; they hem and haw in the hopes of others’ intuiting their preferred outcome, but they won’t come right out and say it. Of course I can’t say whether that’s the case for OP or not but it would explain her reaction.

    2. Travel OP*

      To address your question, there are a few reasons why I am surprised management is pushing for travel. The first being that none of the company’s offices have reopened (phase 1 has been paused due to recent spikes across the country). It is at least surprising to be asked to go abroad (usually multiple times in a month) while in-office work is too risky to resume. In addition this is not my main responsibility, but more a side project I have assisted with, that if needed can be carried out remotely through virtual meetings.

      Mostly I feel the company’s reluctance to tell the client they will not carry out travel (due to border closure/risk/etc) is placing me in a difficult position. Instead I’ve been told directly they are waiting for client to change their mind, if that is the case why not simply proceed with planning virtual visits rather than bring the issue to me? I’m not offended or angry but feel like all of this could be avoided if policy were applied equally. If colleges cannot travel internally across offices client travel abroad shouldn’t be a possibility.

  31. Jaybeetee*

    LW5: Yes, Canada’s borders are closed save for essential travel, so your first question would be whether your work is essential enough that you could even go. Beyond that, anything that can be done remotely, is currently being done remotely. So you probably wouldn’t be meeting with clients directly at any rate. Things are slowly reopening here and our numbers are going down, but regular cross-border travel is a long way off. If I were you I’d clarify just what your boss is asking, since it’s unlikely you’d be able to come up here even if you and your boss wanted it.

  32. Abe Froman*

    Sorry to be off topic, but my anti-virus (Avast) has popped up multiple times when I opened askamanager saying it had blocked multiple things from being downloaded. This has never happened to me before on this site; anyone else having this happen?

    1. Teapot Tía*

      This has happened to me occasionally (with a different antivirus package) & IIRC it was an ad.

  33. The Rafters*

    #3, Our (huge gov org) HR dept is completely overwhelmed coordinating all COVID-related assignments. I do not work with HR but I am one of the screeners. I’m guessing your org has your “marketing dept” collecting information on all employees, then passing it down to individual’s bosses and/or up to HR for the same reason – everyone is overwhelmed. I’m also pretty sure that trained in HIPAA or not, your coworkers are not gabbing about your temperature being 98.9 today.

  34. not always right*

    I am retired now, but just before retiring my former employer started the process to allow people to come back to work. You have to fill out the “survey” and then they take your temperature. The work day for most people begins at 8:15 but some people start anywhere between 7:00 to 8:00. Those people can just go in without the screening BUT they have to be screened between 8:00 and 8:15 when the person who does the screening comes in. Sigh.

  35. not neurotypical*

    #3: In my state, employers are required to appoint one or more health officers who are officially responsible for seeing that the company and employees abide by COVID regulations. These need not be health experts or HR, just employees who have been trained to know what the company is supposed to be doing in terms of letting people work or not, sanitizing work stations, etc. Could it be that these “irrelevant” people with whom the info is being shared are, in fact, your org’s COVID team?

  36. Persephone Underground*

    Side note- there’s a lot you can do! If your reps don’t care you can help get them voted out, or if their seat is safe you can join remote volunteers to help with a different state. Voter reg efforts are huge this year, as well as making sure everyone is set up to vote absentee. Check Facebook or just Google for grassroots groups in your area. I’ve been writing postcards to voters who were removed from their state’s voter rolls to let them know that happened and how to re-register (check out “blue families” for one group doing this, but there are tons, plenty of them nonpartisan). You can’t fix everything but it always feels good to find *something* to do about it, even something small.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      Agh, sorry, this was meant to be a reply to a thread about feeling powerless to effect the US handling of the Covid situation. So relevant to the letter but drifting a bit. To get back on topic, the LW is absolutely fine to just draw a boundary like Alison said though- she doesn’t need to feel powerless here either!

  37. zebra*

    LW1, I worked for a guy exactly like this. Not only did he tell me I couldn’t move up within the company unless I got *any* master’s degree, when I asked once for training on a particular program we used, he said no because I would then use those skills at a future job, thereby “stealing” the time he would pay me to learn it. Look for a new job immediately — you will never get the support you need from this guy.

    The only way a grad degree like that would be worth it is if your company offered to pay the full cost and guarantee you a higher paying job at the end of it. But it doesn’t seem like this is the sort of place to make that kind of deal with you, and you should go elsewhere. Good project managers are always in demand!

  38. Leela*

    OP #1 – this might be very specific to your field so please don’t take this as gospel but as a former recruiter/HR person, Masters/PhD degrees are weighted very low against actual experience! The hiring manager wants someone who’s done the work already over someone who has studied more about doing the work but hasn’t, every time (in the fields I’ve worked in! I have to imagine that there are other fields where Masters/PhD are indeed prerequisites to entry or mobility). It sounds like her advice is about the company specifically from what I’m seeing here in which case I’d run that by other people there to be sure AND weigh that against whether it’s worth staying at that particular company for, if that’s not the norm for other companies in your field. It’s a huge time and energy investment even if the company were to pay for everything up front (not common, often it’s reimbursement and then a million asterisks for “yes we said we’d pay but not for that, not like this, not under these circumstances” etc), and they’re telling you this is just for the OPTION to be considered to move up? I’d find out a lot more before agreeing to do this if you can!

    1. Leela*

      just realized I defaulted to she, but it wasn’t specified in the letter. Apologies for assuming!

    2. Grad School OP*

      Thanks! Yes, I’m starting to think in this case it is a “checkbox” and not necessarily sound advice. I have a litany of questions the next time I have a check in with my boss!

  39. Working Rachel*

    I also worked at an association where I was told I wouldn’t be promoted unless I got a master’s degree–and they did not care what it was in. To me, this is just mindless credentialism and something worth leaving a company for if you have other options, since it not only limits your options but also limits the options of historically underrepresented groups, who are given yet another hoop they have to jump through that (just happens to) cost a lot of money and time with no guarantee of payback.

  40. AnonPi*

    OP1, if it is project management you are interested in pursuing, then you do not want to pursue a grad degree first. I know because I’m pursuing PM and have researched this. Industry standard is to earn one of several project management certifications (CAPM or PMP if you are going traditional, Agile or Scrum if you are interested in software or non-traditional PM). Companies are going to look for 2 things: 1 experience, 2 one of these certifications. They won’t care if you have a grad degree without those. Hell I know one PM that had 20 years exp and a grad degree in PM from a top tier program, and HR still hounded her because she didn’t have her PMP. She finally went and took it to get them off her back. Grad school for PM IMO is if you do want more in depth knowledge, especially about a specific area (such as change management – big deal in traditional PM). But out of all the PMs I have met, very few have a masters in PM, unless your company wants to pay for it the return on investment is just not worth it. Especially when you’re going to need those certs anyways, and those cost money too (not as much as a masters, but still they’re not cheap). I also know the “just an admin” syndrome is prevalent in many businesses, and it can be a real struggle to break away from. Even though I have 3 degrees (I switched from science back to admin work) the way my managers act you’d think it’s lucky I can figure out how to open doors and turn on a computer. They pretty much admitted they don’t know what to do with me and said I should find a job somewhere else, which is what I’ve been doing for the last year. Unfortunately that’s what many in admin type roles have to do – move out to move up, be it another admin position or something else entirely. Good luck and take anything else they tell you with a grain of salt!

  41. Cassie*

    OP3 – My university requires symptom surveys before going to campus – I think it’s pretty much an automated thing – if you mark that you have a symptom, you’ll be instantly denied approval to go to campus and directed to contact your medical provider. Campus is collecting the info, but the data will be kept as confidential as possible (only select high-up people will have access). I’m not even sure if the supervisor will be contacted if a person doesn’t “pass” – so there’s nothing really from preventing someone from showing up on campus even though they technically were denied? (I guess from one POV, it’s more of a reminder that if you have even one possible symptom, you should stay home; and from another POV, it’s the university covering their bases).

  42. Anonymoose*

    I’m not understanding how OP3’s workplace is using these as anything other than a “cover your butt”. If no one is checking them why wouldn’t someone always put NO and therefore be able to work that day. That doesn’t really create a safe screening process.
    (I get that these protocols are rampant everywhere so it’s not new but still.)

  43. Luna*

    LW1: I don’t think I’ll ever understand why getting such a degree is somehow important. Especially when I look at how America works with colleges and such, it makes me think why it would be better to go to a school for several years to learn the theory of something, rather than to work in the field and learn by actually doing the things the job entails.
    Overall, those degrees always make me think they are nothing but pieces of paper that say you wasted time sitting in school to learn something, which likely won’t work that way when you actually get into the job. Every place works its field differently, even if those differences are minute.

    LW5: I think it’s less a matter of ‘are you willing’ than a matter of ‘will it be possible’ to travel. Given that many people are now working from home and digital meetings are on the rise, I think business travel will be drastically lowering. Some things will need to be done in-person, but for the most part, it will stop. And it’s still unclear how soon unrestricted, world-wide travelling will be possible again.

  44. Database Developer Dude*

    Grad School OP, your boss is an ass. Seriously. Dust off the resume and go somewhere else as soon as you can.

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